391477_3422“Among people under 65, nearly half of all ill health is mental illness.”

“Mental illness is generally more debilitating than most chronic physical conditions. On average, a person with depression is at least 50% more disabled than
someone with angina, arthritis, asthma or diabetes.”

“Yet only a quarter of all those with mental illness are in treatment, compared with the vast majority of those with physical conditions.”

“It is a real scandal that we [Great Britain] have 6,000,000 people with depression or crippling anxiety conditions and 700,000 children with problem behaviours, anxiety or depression. Yet three quarters of each group get no treatment.”

The above quotes are from a June, 2012 report by the London School of Economics Center for Economic Performance’s Mental Health Policy Group. The report blames the British National Health Service for failing to properly commission recommendations made by experts.

The upshot? Far too few resources (money and expertise) is being used to address the problem; as little as 13 percent of its budget has been allocated to the treatment of mental illness.

This past year, (the year following the release of this report), has the problem been remedied?

The answer is no, according to this recent article by Peter Beresford, professor of social policy at Brunel University. He writes:

“Talk to mental health service users and they paint a picture of less support, having to battle for what they have, charging and cuts in day services (which increases isolation), delays in getting help and tightening eligibility criteria to access local authority social care support.

“Mental health services are already overstretched and many need treatment but can’t access services.”

Can the NHS address the problems it has in fully serving the British mentally ill, while attempting to deal with insistent calls for reform and improvement in care for the physically ill?

British political commentator Steve Richards points out that current reforms may actually be stymieing, not facilitating better patient care across the board. He points out that Prime Minister David Cameron and Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt have given away their powers. Richards writes:

“The consequence for the NHS is an even greater degree of incoherence than is usual in terms of accountability and control. Rightly it is Cameron and Hunt who have sought to take the lead in response to the various revelations of poor management and delivery in hospitals. They want to get a grip. Cameron chose to deliver the Commons statement in response to the various scandals in Mid Staffordshire. Hunt has spoken at length this week about poor performance exposed in some other parts of the country.

“Together they have proposed a series of measures – the need for greater transparency, protection for whistleblowers, zero tolerance of poor nursing, the removal of bad managers. More specifically, Hunt has called in emergency task forces to sort out the underperforming hospitals…”

Richards even compares the NHS to the BBC, the national broadcasting network which has been plagued by scandals, including most recently charges that venerated national network used television viewer license fees totalling 28 million pounds to pay off and silence (read: gag) BBC employees (read: whistleblowers) who had been victims of bullying, sexual harassment, and so on.

The comparison is not off the mark. “Dr. Daniel Poulter, a health minister and a qualified doctor who still works part-time in NHS hospitals, said “institutional secrecy” was put ahead of patient safety…”

In fact,the NHS will have to pay out a jaw-dropping nearly 23 BILLION pounds to patients who’ve been harmed, even mortally, by poor health care. That is one fifth of the NHS annual budget and certainly qualifies as a scandal of mammoth proportions.

Can the NHS, mostly beloved by the majority of British subjects (at least most of the ones we know), get its house in order? Can it improve patient care and change it’s culture of cover-up to one of transparency? Can it simultaneously address what appears to be a mental health crisis?

Over here in the United States, we can only watch and hope.