Tuesday, April 18, 2017

how NICE

The NICE (the National Centre for Health and Care Excellence), guided by the Tory government, has invested over £60 million in recent months to expand and improve access to mental health care for NHS patients. With waiting lists for specialist services over six months long in most catchment areas and demand perpetually growing, this investment has been desperately needed. The prime minister and even some royals have come out recently in support of these improvements, and encouraged the people to try them. Isn't that Nice?

Well, we say 'improve' and we say 'care' and we even say 'NHS patients' but let's not forget who and what we're dealing with. What that £60 million has actually gone toward, for the most part, is for-profit overseas online therapy companies and automated self-help programmes.

There's nothing quite like the Centre for Care Excellence posting ads on the tube to offer introductory discounts to an automated therapy website for NHS patients. It feels similar to getting 16.1 million  Google matches for the phrase 'I'm insignificant'--a number equivalent to the entire human population of Cambodia.

Indeed, what better way to tell people who are crippled by a profound feeling of worthlessness just how much they mean to you than to sell them a subscription to a one-size-fits-all self-paced mindfulness website? Or for an additional fee, you can send an instant message to a 'trained therapist' in a contact centre in Mumbai. Please select from one of the following options. Text '1' for general worthlessness. Text '2' for workplace-related feelings of inadequacy. Text '3' for family or money-related anxiety. Text '4' if you've overdosed on cough syrup and have outstanding taxes.

Discovering that, far from investing in mental health care in any meaningful way, the NHS has sold the masses out to a robotic psychic hotline feels like getting to the middle of a bridge, but instead of a Samaritans phone you find a turnstile to the edge that accepts contactless payment cards.