Today, the Public Accounts Committee published a new report on mental health services. The Committee sits in Parliament and investigates how public services work and their value for money.
This report says that the Government and NHS England need to do a number of things to make sure that there is “parity of esteem” between mental health services and other health services. In particular, the Committee says they should focus on:
- Collecting more information about how much mental health services cost and how well they work.
- How mental health services can be more integrated with other health services to make sure people get referred to them when they need.
- Finding out how many staff mental health services need.
- Making sure local decision-makers are incentivised to improve mental health services.
- Finding out more about the way local decision-makers decide on funding for services and using the information they have to think if it can be done better.
Although these recommendations do not talk about autism, we know that many autistic people do not get the support they need if they develop mental health problems. Therefore, the National Autistic Society welcomes that the Committee’s ideas to improve services.
We have issued a comment to the media. Sarah Lambert, Head of Policy at the National Autistic Society, said:
"Autism is not a mental illness. But research suggests that around almost 80% of autistic adults and 70% of autistic children struggle with mental health problems, such as anxiety or depression, at some point in their lives. We know that late diagnosis, lack of support and social isolation are big causes of mental health problems among autistic people. The Public Accounts Committee's important report puts forward some promising recommendations which could help tackle many of these issues. We strongly urge the Government, NHS England and Health Education England to accept these recommendations."
Ms Lambert continued by saying, "It's particularly important for the Government and NHS to start collecting data around cost and performance of mental health services. It may sound simple but this information really could help bring down autism diagnosis waiting times and help autistic people get mental health support earlier. Far too many autistic people are living with avoidable mental health problems. Earlier diagnosis and improved mental health support can transform the lives of autistic people in England.”