People in need of psychiatric care are being failed by poor access to community health services, according to a new report.
The Healthcare Commission claims that local mental health care providers need to improve their out-of-hours care and provide better access to talking therapies and information about the services that are available.
Following an assessment of 174 Local Implementation Teams (LITs) across England, the watchdog concluded that the services, which bring together a range of organisations including NHS bodies, local authorities and community groups, were "generally performing well".
However, the report stressed that there were still "long-standing problems" in relation to the treatment of mental health sufferers.
Just 49 per cent of people with psychiatric problems had the phone number of someone they could contact after office hours and only half of patients with schizophrenia or suspected schizophrenia said that they had been offered access to appropriate talking therapies, as required by national guidelines.
Healthcare Commission chief executive Anna Walker said: "The majority of people who suffer from mental illness receive their treatment in their own community, not in hospital. They want to remain in the community and this helps them get better.
"But for care in the community to work for the mentally ill, more access is needed to talking therapies and out-of-hours crisis care. Mental health crises don't keep office hours and the service must be flexible enough to tackle this."
In addition, the report revealed that just five per cent of LITs were rated highly in regard to telling patients about the possible side effects of drugs prescribed to them and only six per cent scored maximum points for giving patients a say in the type of medication they take.
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Psychiatric care news : 29/09/2006