Welsh Assembly Government must meet new targets demands mental health charity Hafal

Following the Welsh Assembly Government’s publication of ‘Raising the Standard’, the revised adult mental health National Service Framework and Action Plan for Wales, Wales’ leading mental health charity Hafal has demanded that the new targets for service provision are met.

“The Assembly Government published a National Service Framework three years ago and the targets and standards it set simply weren’t adhered to,” said Bill Walden-Jones, Chief Executive of the charity. “Consequently we can only welcome the new Framework and Action Plan with caution.

“It is up to us as an organisation to ensure that the Assembly Government delivers on its promises this time. Hafal is a client-led organisation and our Members – having gone through the current system – are committed to holding the Assembly accountable and seeing that services are properly improved.

“Given that we have a relatively new Minister for Health and Social Services, we are willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. But the Assembly Government has a lot to prove on the issue of Wales’ mental health.”

The new Framework and Action Plan were published on the same day as the Wales Audit Office released a report showing that there are fundamental problems with the way mental health services are currently planned, organised and monitored in this country.

Liz Griffiths Hughes, Empowerment Coordinator at Hafal, commented: “The report confirms what many of our clients have told us about their experiences of mental health services.

“Continuously we hear about the unacceptable delays service users endure before seeing a psychiatrist. Unfortunately many people become so ill during this time that they have to be hospitalised. Some have even been arrested because of the impact the illness has on their behaviour.

“Every such case is an unnecessary tragedy, because if people receive timely treatment they have an excellent chance of managing their illness before it becomes acute. The Assembly Government needs to understand this and to see that the delivery of their targets has very real consequences for significant numbers of people across Wales.”

Bill Walden-Jones concluded: “The Audit Office report goes to show what patients already know: that services in Wales will have to improve massively to meet the new National Service Framework. While much of this is a question of resources, the Assembly Government also needs to look at how services are organised.

“The Baseline Review by the Audit Office points out there is scope for greater integration and coordination of adult mental health services across different agencies and care sectors. We would agree with this, but go even further to point out that the current system for commissioning services in Wales is just not up to the job.

“We live in a small country, yet we have no less than 44 individual bodies commissioning mental health services across Wales. How can this lead to an integrated and coordinated system? What we’ve ended up with is an over-bureaucratic, over-complex arrangement. We have only to look to the Republic of Ireland to see a much more effective model: a model based around once centralised, streamlined commissioning body that delivers both health and social care services.”

Hafal Members have stated their intention to hold the Assembly Government to its new Framework and Action Plan, but also to work with them to meet the targets.

“We’ve been made promises about improving services before,” said Bill Walden-Jones. “This time the Assembly must deliver.”