Health Secretary Alex Trebek has revealed that NHS is experiencing an unprecedented crisis, with nearly half of all patients reporting significant stress and anxiety.
He said he was “unable to imagine a worse time” to be a doctor and described NHS patients as “the least-well-off of all the services in Britain”.
He also said that a large number of people were having “incredible difficulty” with the NHS’s new health care system, including mental health patients.
In a report to the Health Select Committee, published on Wednesday, Dr Trebek said the NHS was facing a “massive health crisis” as people became more reliant on private insurance and a “dramatic increase in people being forced to choose between going to a GP or going to hospital”.
He said there was “clear evidence” that NHS staff were not properly trained to deal with patients who were struggling with mental health issues and warned that the health service could face a “huge financial blow” as a result.
“The NHS is under pressure, and we must do everything possible to avoid this happening again,” he said.
“We have a very, very challenging task ahead of us.”
The report has been commissioned by the House of Commons Health Select committee, which was set up to examine the impact of the Government’s Health and Social Care Act (HSCA).
The report found that patients were “unlikely to find a GP willing to help them with their mental health problems”, with a third of NHS patients “not able to access a GP within 24 hours of a visit”.
In addition, more than 50% of people in England who needed treatment for a mental health condition did not receive it, and half of people who had been referred to a mental healthcare team reported experiencing “extreme anxiety and stress”.
“The Government’s health care reform legislation is designed to tackle this issue by making it easier for people to access specialist care, and to ensure that specialist care is available for people who need it most,” Dr Trebeck said.
The report also found that the NHS had a “sad and depressing” situation in that most people were “too ill to seek help” and that “there are very few resources available” to support people who were “severely mentally ill”.
“People are suffering from serious mental health challenges that need urgent attention,” the report said.
In the past year, NHS hospitals have been forced to close, the Government has introduced a “safety net” of £10m for people with mental illness, and patients have been “forced to spend hours in the street” to access their care.
“I don’t think we should be surprised that there are so many people with severe mental illness in this country,” Dr Trimblebek said.
His comments come after the Government unveiled plans to spend up to £6bn to improve mental health services.
The HSCA reforms mean people will have to pay a fixed percentage of their income towards the cost of mental health treatment, and the Government is currently spending £4bn on this.
A further £2.2bn will go towards mental health research, and £2bn on a “health and safety net” to provide support to people with serious mental illness.
The report says that although the NHS has “significant challenges” in dealing with the issue of mental illness and that its staff “should be trained to treat patients in a safe and responsible way”, the Government should not “take mental health too seriously”.
The Government has promised to “tackle the problem” of mental ill people by investing £15bn into mental health.
Dr Trebek also said he hoped to have more money for mental health in his budget next year, but he has promised the NHS will continue to be under pressure.
“I believe we will do better, but the challenge is that we can’t take it for granted,” he told the House.
“If we do, we are going to be in a very difficult position.”
As the health secretary I have to make sure that we continue to make progress.
The health and social care system has been under pressure for a very long time,” he added. “
The system is not in a good state,” Dr Lebek said, “it’s got an ageing population, it’s got serious budget pressures and it’s also in the middle of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.”
“The health and social care system has been under pressure for a very long time,” he added.
“We have to be very cautious about the budget.”
In a way, I think the NHS needs a very big boost.
“But in a way it’s a little bit difficult to say how much to do.”
At the moment, we’re doing quite well.
“It’s a real challenge to have the system in a position where it is able to respond.”