Your right to choose your mental health service provider

Extension of Choice to People Accessing Mental Health Services

In January of this year Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister, launched the Government’s mental health strategy document, “Closing the Gap”. This document stated that from April 2014 adults with mental health problems will have the legal right -

‘to choose which provider and consultant or mental health professional will be in charge of their care when they attend their first outpatient appointment’.

This means that from 1st April 2014 you will have the right to choose who your GP refers you to for mental health treatment and you will be able to, in theory, choose ANY secondary provider that has a contract with the NHS.

It’s not yet clear whether that choice will include Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) services or centres of excellence for the treatment of OCD. We understand from the Department of Health that they are working on drafting clearer guidance for GPs and patients. We will share these with you once they become available.

The Department of Health also believe that it will take some time, up to a year, for all systems supporting this change to be properly in place. This means that your doctor may not be sure how to put this into practice. It is their responsibility however to find out what needs to be done to enable you to exercise your right to choose.

Extending choice to mental health services in a welcome step in the right direction, but it is not enough.

We know from the huge numbers of people we have supported through our advocacy service (over 50% of the 455 cases we’ve worked on to date) that getting a referral to quality OCD-specific treatment can depend on a number of issues including how informed your GP is and whether funding is available to cover the cost of treatment. These are issues that the NHS still needs to work on and on which we will continue to campaign.