One of IMHSA's main areas of focus is on improving access and outcomes for mental health patients.

IMHSA welcomes government efforts to improve access to mental health services and boost funding. This includes the £1.25 billion investment in mental health services for young people. However, there is still insufficient funding to meet demand for mental health services, which is impacting negatively on patient access to care.

Budget restrictions mean commissioners can be incentivised to focus on finding the ‘cheapest’ provision, rather than the service which can best provide for patients, which would be more cost effective in the long-term. This underfunding is impacting on patient access to care. If patients cannot access timely and appropriate care, particularly when in crisis, the cost to the NHS will only increase.

Delayed discharges and a lack of appropriate alternatives to admissions are another significant barrier to patient access to mental healthcare. IMHSA welcomes moves towards more community-based care as a means to address this. However, this should not be accompanied by an unnecessary reduction or disinvestment in inpatient beds, as these can be the most appropriate provision for some patients.

The division in commissioning specialised and non-specialised mental health services is also a cause of delayed discharges. NHS England is responsible for specialised services while Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) commission non-specialised. This means that in order to step-down from inpatient care patients must move through different commissioning budgets. This can create blockages as negotiations take place regarding funding and the most appropriate placements, making it difficult for patients to step-down and preventing new patients accessing inpatient services.

In addition, IMHSA has concerns about the continuation of the moratorium on commissioning new specialised services. As well as limiting patient choice, the moratorium inhibits service demand from being met through the development of new services where they are needed. IMHSA members want to offer new, efficient services and pathways to ensure that patients are able to access quality care in a timely manner. We believe NHS England must work quickly to lift the moratorium to ensure that patients are able to access innovative, quality care and do not have to suffer from long waiting times.

Read our report - Breaking Down Barriers: Improving patient access and outcomes in mental health, published November 2015