Understanding what community mental health care is like for service users provides key information about the quality of services across England. The NHS Constitution commits the NHS to encourage patients to give feedback of their experiences and to use this to improve services. The Community Mental Health Survey asks a sample of service users from each trust several questions about their experiences.
Since 2013, the Community Mental Health Survey has asked service users to rate their overall experience from 0 (very poor) to 10 (very good). The proportion of people rating their overall experience as very good has increased by 2% since 2013, with 20% of respondents giving a score of 10 in 2017. However, between 2013 and 2017 the proportion of respondents who gave ratings of 7, 8 or 9 each fell by about 1.5%. The proportion of service users reporting very poor overall experience has increased by 1% since 2013.
In comparison with other national patient surveys, service users rated their overall experience of community mental health services the least favourably. The most recent survey data shows that 37% of Children and Young People's Survey respondents rated their child's experience as very good compared with 28% of Adult Inpatient Survey respondents, 27% of Emergency Department Survey respondents, and only 20% of Community Mental Health Survey respondents.
Service users are asked whether in the last 12 months NHS mental health services had given them any help or advice with finding support for various aspects of their lives. Physical health needs were the best supported, with the lowest proportion of service users reporting that they had not been given any help or advice (36% in 2017). Overall, respondents received the least support for finding or keeping work, with an average of 44% of service users reporting that they had not received any help or advice between 2012 and 2017. Support for financial advice or benefits has worsened; in 2012, 37% of service users reported that they did not receive any help or advice compared with 45% in 2017.
The proportion of Community Mental Health Survey respondents who felt they were given enough time to discuss their needs and treatment has decreased over time, falling from 92% in 2010 to 87% in 2017. Between 2010 and 2017, the proportion of people who felt they were not given enough time increased from 7% to 13%. Note that the question was changed in 2014 to ask about needs and treatment rather than condition and treatment.
Once a mental health care plan has been agreed, it is important for service users to have regular review meetings with their care coordinator to ensure that it continues to meet their needs. Service users are asked whether they had a formal meeting with someone from NHS mental health services to discuss how their care was working in the last 12 months. The question was reworded in 2014, so is not comparable with previous surveys. In 2017, 72% of respondents stated that they had a formal meeting with someone from NHS mental health services to discuss their care in the last 12 months.
Community Mental Health Survey respondents are asked if they know who to contact out of office hours if they have a crisis. Between 2014 and 2017, the proportion of respondents who knew who to contact if they had a crisis increased from 68% to 71%.
Respondents who knew who to contact out of office hours if they had a crisis and had tried in the last 12 months to make contact with this person/team are asked, "When you tried to contact them, did you get the help you needed?". Between 2014 and 2017, the proportion of respondents who definitely got the help they needed decreased from 45% to 39%. Meanwhile, the proportion who did not get the help they needed increased from 21% to 26%.
About this data
The Community Mental Health Survey is sent to a random sample of service users from each trust aged 18 and over who received specialist care or treatment for a mental health condition within a specified time period.
The survey asks people about their overall care, crisis care, access and coordination of care, patient involvement, medicines and additional support.
Respondents who stated that they did not know/could not remember are excluded from the survey results. To enable national comparison between years, data is weighted to account for differences in response rates between trusts. A further weighting accounts for differences in response rates at a given trust in a given year, across age groups or gender.
The Community Mental Health Survey underwent two major redevelopments in 2010 and 2014 to revise its methodology and questionnaire content to reflect changes in policy and best practice.