One of the key points stressed was that 'clustering' certain risk groups is essential to secure adequate funds and plan new services. More generally, the conference emphasized the growing partnership between public and private organizations in the sector. It seems the UK is preparing well for the introduction of the new Mental Health Strategy next year.
The conference "Implementing the Mental Health Needs of Women", organized by Harrogate Management Centre in London, raised important issues surrounding the provision of mental health services tailored to women's needs. The presentations identified specific problem areas found in primary-, secondary- and tertiary care, as well as prisons, contributing to the debate surrounding the National Service Framework (NSF) for Mental Health.
The debate singled out, in particular, women with psychodynamic and criminological characteristics; asylum seekers; women with a history of abuse; women with a dual diagnosis of alcohol and drugs; women with eating disorders and a history of "self-harm"; and women with learning disabilities.
Although clustering groups is considered restrictive, grouping is crucial to distributing funds and organizing services. As funding for mental health services comes increasingly from the private sector, providers and practitioners alike face new challenges. Although private providers have introduced valuable ideas for care provision, a number of speakers expressed concerns as to whether private practices can provide adequate follow-up care.
The conference also covered why women need specialized mental health services. Speakers suggested future services should not only minimize the potential of abuse, but more effectively address mental disorders commonly experienced by women, as well as offering support for women's "disturbed sense of themselves" in a rapidly changing society.
Another issue highlighted was that, given the increasing emphasis on evidence-based decision-making, managers need more data on women's mental health needs. So far, not enough gender-specific research has been carried out to substantiate proposals. However, empirical data and personal accounts presented at the conference argued strongly in favor of mental healthcare services tailored to women's needs.
The changing social roles and emotional needs of women demand more focused healthcare assessment, as policymakers seek to use resources more effectively and enable clinicians to implement a more holistic approach. With independent and statutory health care sectors joining forces, the momentum needed for the changes proposed under the new Mental Health Strategy next year appears to be gathering.