Last week I drafted a short, commentary-type, paper for a special edition of Mental Health Nursing which will be focusing on practice and services during a time of austerity. Some years ago I was on the editorial board of MHN. I’m pleased to learn that having disappeared from the library shelves in favour of becoming an online journal (available only to members of Unite the Union) it has made a return in traditional paper form. I’ve been sent a stack of copies, which I’ll be distributing to students.
Anyway: no sooner had I completed my draft and sent it onwards than yesterday’s big health and social care story broke. Under the banner England’s mental health services ‘in crisis’ the BBC ran a report drawing on a joint investigation conducted with Community Care magazine. The headlines were sobering, suggesting over 1,500 mental health hospital beds being lost since April 2011. These bald figures were illustrated with personal stories, revealing people needing crisis admission being transferred to wherever beds could be found around the country, and wards running at over 100% occupancy.
This is very bad news, and suggests a shrinkage back to the way things last were in the early to mid 1990s. In writing my paper for MHN I fished out my copy of this article by David McDaid and Martin Knapp, in which the point is made that at times of economic hardship demand for mental health care increases. And yet, as we are finding, services are actually retracting as austerity bites.