One in five older people living in the community and 40% of elderly care home residents are affected by depression, according to a major study into mental health by NHS England.
The study found that older people’s needs are too often neglected, most do not seek any help, and many think that depression is simply a part of growing old.
Prime Minister David Cameron has demanded answers from the NHS and other care providers, and pledged an additional £1 billion per year of funding to tackle mental health issues.
NHS England says that mental health accounts for 23% of NHS activity but NHS spending on secondary mental health services is equivalent to just half of this.
Years of low prioritisation have led to Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) under-investing in mental health services relative to physical health services, the report states.
The NHS England report, which is long on the extent of the problem, but short of concrete proposals, calls for much greater transparency about mental health issues and better coordination between public and independent care providers.
For example, the report suggests: “During 2016 NHS England and Public Health England should set a clear plan to develop and support the Mental Health Intelligence Network over the next five years, so that it supports data linkage across public agencies, effective commissioning and the implementation of new clinical pathways and standards as they come online.”