New guidance targets mistakes in aftercare of mental health patients

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) and the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) have released new guidance to tackle mistakes seen in the aftercare of patients receiving support under the Mental Health Act.

The two ombudsmen work together on complaints involving both health and social care bodies. The new guidance brings together common themes seen in these joint investigations, and includes practical recommendations for councils and Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs).

The guidance will also support practitioners in delivering a continuity of care during the transition from CCGs to Integrated Care Boards from this summer.

Councils and CCGs have a joint responsibility to provide or arrange free aftercare for adults, young people and children until they are satisfied the person no longer needs it. These responsibilities are set out in the Mental Health Act Code of Practice. They aim to cut the risk of worsening the person’s mental health condition and reduce the risk of needing further hospital admission.

a man holds his head while sitting on a sofa

The guidance uses case studies to highlight recurring mistakes when there are misunderstandings between a council and CCG about their collective responsibilities, such as:

  • care planning for patients
  • funding for aftercare
  • accommodation needs
  • ending mental health aftercare

Rob Behrens of the PHSO said: ‘The cases outlined in the guidance demonstrate the traumatic and lasting impact mistakes can have on patients and their families when council and CCGs fail to manage mental health aftercare effectively. 

‘When a person receives treatment under the Mental Health Act, they are vulnerable. Organisations responsible for their care must deliver the best service possible to maximise the patient’s recovery.

‘The work of the Joint Working Team is vital in ensuring that the organisations involved are held to account when mistakes are made across the health and social care sectors.’

The LGSCO’s Michael King said: ‘Where complex cases span multiple organisations and bodies, it is all the more important for those bodies to get things right. We’ve issued this guidance not only to share learning from the complaints we have received, but also to highlight to councils and CCGs our joint working team’s role in investigating those cases.

‘I hope practitioners in this area will take on board the learning it contains and apply it to their practice to ensure the people in their care are properly supported.’

Photo by Nik Shuliahin


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