NHS assessment centres should be just that; a place where people with mental health problems are assessed. In reality the recent census by the Department for Health reveals that they are being used for long term hospitalisation for people who present challenging behaviour.
Out of a population of 3000, 24 have been patients for 20 years or more, 44 between 15 and 20 years while 130 have been patients for between 10 and 15 years.
Worse, NHS Assessment Centres are a drain on vital public resources at a time of severe cut backs on budgets with an average cost of between £1500 and £4500 per patient per week while more than 100 people are costing in excess of £6000 per week.
Norman Lamb, Minister for Social Care, has said he is worried about the figures and concerned that two thirds of all NHS Assessment Centre patients are being administered with anti-psychotic drugs with a third being physically restrained. He wants an immediate review and a firm commitment that things will dramatically change.
We’re with him on that!
Here at ubu we have campaigned for more than 30 years for a radical alternative in the way that people who present challenging behaviour are cared for.
Our experience proves that if you put the person in charge of their own destiny they will respond positively and their condition will improve. That is good for them and it is good for society. As they improve their need for care is reduced and the cost of any care they continue to receive is cut.
Norman Lamb recently visited one of our uStep models and he has spoken openly about how he admires it. A key element of uStep is that each consumer has an individual care package with close monitoring of improvement. Mr Lamb could demonstrate how much he did admire uStep by embracing some of our work practises into NHS treatment for vulnerable adults.
NHS Assessment Centres are supposed to be for stays of six months or less. There must now provide guidance about how long people can stay in them, a strict, enforceable timetable for working out and implementing an appropriate care package.
Words are free - action costs, but ultimately as uStep has proven, it is cheaper.