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Mental health patients to be allowed choice of consultants they would want to see

Date: (13 December 2012)    |    

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Under new rights to the patients with mental health problems patients would be allowed to choose psychiatrist consultants to end institutional bias against them in the NHS.
This would put them on par with the patients with physical health problems.
The move, to be announced on Thursday by the Department of Health, would allow people with conditions such as depression to choose which specialist they go to for treatment from 2014.
The change was due to the efforts of the deputy prime minister Nick Clegg who said that giving mental health patents more choice and control over their treatment would give them better chances of recovery whilst giving them parity with those with physical health problems.
He added that there was no logic in a situation where some of the most vulnerable members of the society had so little control over how their condition was treated. If any group of patients could benefit from being empowered by taking control of their own care, it was people with mental illness.
He said his overriding priority was to ensure that mental health wais finally considered in all aspects of NHS care, so that it no longer suffered from the institutional bias that has existed for so long.
This change would be a symbolic blow in minister’s efforts to ensure that patients with mental health problems got the same rights and access to NHS treatment as those with physical ailments, Whitehall sources said it would help end what was too often a "like it or lump it health service" for mental health patients who currently cannot choose the psychiatrist they would like to see.
In 2008 under the patient’s rights those with physical health conditions were allowed to choose which hospital they visited for their first appointment with a consultant. The same rules would apply for any patient in England referred by their GP for treatment for a mental health problem.
The change would be the latest initiative by Liberal Democrat ministers to ensure parity for one in four people who suffer from mental ill-health at some point in their lifetime from NHS. Recently the health minister announced plans to introduce "access standards" to ensure patients do not have to wait too long for mental health treatment, to match those that already exist for physical conditions.
It will also allow such patients referred by their GP to choose to go to a private provider of mental health treatment, not just an NHS hospital.
Paul Farmer, chief executive of the mental health charity Mind, welcomed the move. "This is a real step forward in making the government's commitment to giving mental health parity of esteem with physical health a reality. Many people tell Mind that too often they were left with the feeling that they were not being heard or respected by their mental health professional, so allowing people to choose their consultant should improve quality of care.