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Providers sceptical on extending mental health choice

Proposals to extend competition between any qualified provider for mental health have been greeted with scepticism.

In a public consultation launched last week, the DH said the choice of provider available in elective acute care had been unavailable to patients referred for secondary mental healthcare “for too long”. It outlined plans for moving towards “parity for users of mental health services with those receiving other forms of elective care, where possible”.

However, Mental Health Network director Steve Shrubb said while his members were “supportive of improving choice in mental health”, it would be difficult to do any qualified provider without payment by results.

He added: “We are at least a couple of years away, in my view, from having a fully functioning, fully tested mental health [PbR] currency.”

The DH also stated that any qualified provider would be a “key mechanism for giving patients a choice of diagnostic test provider in the community”. It said it would set out a range of priority tests for “comprehensive inclusion” on the choose and book IT system during 2012-13. They may include electrocardiograms, non-obstetric ultrasound, gastroscopy and audiology, it said.

NHS Partners Network director David Worskett said private sector NHS providers were “pleased to note the continuing commitment to any qualified provider, though [they] remain disappointed that the initial list of services is so limited and has not been widened”.

He said the DH’s plan “places more emphasis on shared decision taking than on enabling really fundamental choices about types of treatment and pathways”.

Readers' comments (1)

  • DH is absolutlely right. In my opinion, to put weight behind achieving parity for MH service users in this area of choice is sorely needed. Too often the consequence for patients is poor access. Perhaps the most important area of all would be around crisis community services, where patients, supported if necessary by carers and others, could nominate to receive these services from a provider with a properly functioning service in place and excellent track-record. Don't get bogged down over PBR over this, either provide a good service or live with the admistrative consequences of a bill from the patients provider of choice.

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