Two components of our “Big Society” are at risk from losing out as a result of the NHS reforms. Surely these, often already forgotten, groups should be able to trust that the more patient-centred NHS, would mean that they will get more choice too?
Mental health services already suffer: stigmatised, underfunded and often the first to bear the brunt of any health cuts, the proposed NHS reforms could be the making or breaking of the services that are currently in place.
Cuts are already being made to social services and other providers which help to support mental health patients. With a further risk to their tight budget being created by their funding regime, block funded not tariffed as acute mainstream care is, there is a real concern that patients could be left without the support that they require, perhaps heightening their need for acute, unplanned interventions.
For mental health services to operate effectively and efficiently there is a need for cooperation and integration between services. This crucial component to caring for our mentally unwell could be destabilised by the proposed reforms as there is a possibility that different service providers may provide separate areas of care, increasing demand for high levels of organisation, of which our GPs are meant to be able to manage too. The mental health charity MIND has expressed concerns over the understanding that GPs have on mental health problems and the possibility that this lack of knowledge may negatively impact on the commissioning choices that they make.
For families of disabled children, their reliance on the health and social care framework means that any reform is likely to affect them, whether positively or negatively. There are many questions that the Council for Disabled Children would like to be addressed before they can be assured that the effect on services for their clientele is not too destructive.
With plans to increase patient control over their own records, who does this leave responsible in ensuring they are accurate in terms of minors? Ultimately, it could bring benefits to health consultations with new and unfamiliar physicians as long as there is to be a national benefit, and not just for a select group.
There should also be assurances that the social care reforms earmarked for the adult social care sector are either ran in tandem with, or take into consideration, the dual work that occurs alongside child social services, especially with disabled children, and that there will not be a break in the safeguarding of minors as a result of reformation.
Plans for increased patient choice and input on their care could leave groups, such as children with disabilities, vulnerable to missing out. There should not be an assumption that equal access will occur, and integration with voluntary services and other providers, as with mental health, should remain concordant.
Andrew Lansley said “there is no health without mental health”, the Tory’s big society should ensure that if this is the case that they are not forgotten.