A new "benchmark" for mental health services was published by the Government today - and was promptly dismissed by a charity as "a cosmetic public relations exercise". The Mental Health Services Patients' Charter sets out "a number of new and improved standards", according to the Department of Health. The new standards, taking effect on April 1, are mainly about discharge and after-care arrangements, with better information to enable people with mental health problems "to get the service they need", a spokesman said. Health Minister Simon Burns said the charter booklet "provides a benchmark by which patients can expect to receive high quality mental health services". "We want to see all mental health services reach their full potential," he said.
But the mental health charity Sane claimed the charter "limited itself to a rehash of pre-existing expectations of care". A spokeswoman said: "In Sane's experience, users of mental health services, their families and carers will view this charter as a cosmetic public relations exercise." Sane chief executive Marjorie Wallace said: "This charter is something akin to issuing an instruction manual while failing to provide the machine. "The charter, by the Government's own admission, will not secure and deliver better standards of care to patients."
Mental health charity Mind welcomed the charter's setting of rights and minimum standards of care, with a commitment to courtesy and privacy for patients, but said it was a poor substitute for proper funding. An extra 300 million was needed to plug gaps in crisis services, said Judi (correct) Clements, Mind's national director. "For years have been calling on the Government to set minimum national standards to improve mental health services, particularly crisis services, but the charter will prove more of a wish list than a reality without adequate funding."
Ann Coffey, shadow health minister, said: "In view of the crisis in the community with mental illness, a patient's charter which increases expectations without providing the resources, does nobody any service."
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