Health care encompasses medical, nursing and other allied care services which promote, restore or maintain physical and mental health (1). This includes A&E departments and primary care services, such as GPs. Social care provide support for day-to-day living. This includes help at home, meal services, home adaptations, equipment, alarms and providing different types of housing (2). Health and social care often involve the voluntary sector, which can improve efficiency, accessibility, and availability of services in the community (3).
Risk and/or Protective Factor
Accessible, available and high quality health and social care are protective factors for mental health. GPs are the first access points to mental health care in the UK. This allows for easier access and reduced stigma (4), improving mental health outcomes. Social care provides support for people with mental health conditions and is therefore a protective factor (5).
An important factor in accessing mental health services is availability. Long wait times for NHS treatments, in which, for example, most people wait more than four weeks between referral and second appointment, highlight a lack of availability (6). This has been associated with worse mental health (6). While wait times can be avoided by accessing treatment through the private sector, this is not affordable for most people (7).
Access barriers to health and social care services are risk factors for mental health difficulties. People can have impaired access to health care services due to lacking transportation access (8). Young people may experience barriers due to a lack of resources and information about services (8). People from ethnic minorities face barriers to accessing services for reasons including stigma, cultural norms, and language barriers (9); which may perpetuate mental health inequalities and exacerbate their poor mental health.
1. World Health Organization. The world health report 2000 - Health systems: improving performance. Geneva; 2001.
2. NHS. Introduction to care and support [Internet]. NHS. 2018 [cited 2021 Jan 7]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/social-care-and-support-guide/introduction-to-care-and-support/
3. Pedro L. Why voluntary organisations are essential to health service transformation: Get involved | NCVO BlogsNCVO Blogs [Internet]. NCVO. 2017 [cited 2021 Mar 2]. Available from: https://blogs.ncvo.org.uk/2017/08/23/why-voluntary-organisations-are-essential-to-health-service-transformation-get-involved/
4. What is primary care mental health?: WHO and Wonca Working Party on Mental Health. Ment Health Fam Med [Internet]. 2008 Mar [cited 2021 Feb 10];5(1):9–13. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22477841
5. Local Government Association. Being mindful of mental health. London; 2017 Jun.
6. Two-fifths of patients waiting for mental health treatment forced to resort to emergency or crisis services [Internet]. Royal College of Psychiatrists. 2020 [cited 2021 May 4]. Available from: https://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/news-and-features/latest-news/detail/2020/10/06/two-fifths-of-patients-waiting-for-mental-health-treatment-forced-to-resort-to-emergency-or-crisis-services
7. Mind. Private sector care [Internet]. Mind for better mental health. 2017 [cited 2021 Feb 10]. Available from: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/guides-to-support-and-services/seeking-help-for-a-mental-health-problem/private-sector-care/
8. Wilson C. Breaking Down the Barriers. a Strategy in Development. 2002.
9. Memon A, Taylor K, Mohebati LM, Sundin J, Cooper M, Scanlon T, et al. Perceived barriers to accessing mental health services among black and minority ethnic (BME) communities: A qualitative study in Southeast England. BMJ Open [Internet]. 2016 Nov 1 [cited 2021 Feb 10];6(11):e012337. Available from: http://bmjopen.bmj.com/