Hart rejects all Wales mental-health organisation

 Health Minister Edwina Hart has rejected setting up a single all-Wales mental health organisation as suggested in Professor Michael Williams’ paper Iechyd Meddwl Cymru.

Professor Williams put forward the idea of a single organisation earlier this year.

However the consultation that followed revealed although people who use mental health services and some charities liked his idea, it was not favoured by health organisations, local authorities and the learning disability sector.

While acknowledging that mental health services are a top priority and that they must improve urgently Hart, the Minister for Health and Social Services, explained her decision by giving three prime reasons.

Firstly she argued that the close working of mental, physical health and social services could be hampered by a separate mental health organisation.

Secondly she added that a single all-inclusive mental health organisation would stand the risk of becoming “isolated and stigmatised”.

Finally, Hart voiced concern about the inclusion of learning disabilities within a single health organisation model stating: “These services have been driven by a social model of well-being and any such proposed new body could medicalise them.”

Responding to the Minister’s announcement Bill Walden-Jones, Chief Executive of mental health charity Hafal, stated:”As a client-led organisation, we are disappointed by the Minister’s decision as we feel that a single organisation would have led to a more streamlined system and a better quality of service.

“However, we do feel the consultation on Iechyd Meddwl Cymru has been a worthwhile process. And even if Iechyd Meddwl Cymru is not to be put into practice, there are still valuable lessons to be learnt from the proposal, particularly Williams’ vision of a system driven by the needs of service users and their carers.

“We do, however, welcome the Minister’s plans to merge trusts and local health boards into integrated bodies with responsibility for both community and hospital-based health services, and specifically for mental health services. This more conservative streamlining of structures will still, we hope, lead to a fairer system that concentrates its resources where they are needed: at the front line of service delivery.”

Mr Walden-Jones added that in her statement the Minister promised that mental health must be prioritised in the new integrated NHS bodies.

 He said Hafal members believe this is essential if mental health service provision in Wales is to move forward.

“The Minister recognises that mental health is currently the Cinderella service in Wales’ NHS,” concluded Mr Walden-Jones.  “The proposed reorganisation must be seized as an opportunity to address this inequality.”

Reflecting the mixed views Professor Williams’ paper inspired, Ewan Hilton, Executive Director of mental health charity Gofal Cymru, said he agreed with the Minister’s statement.

He said: “Our position on Michael Williams’ paper was it lacked the detail needed to make the case for a single mental health body. We do not believe, however, that the current structures and systems give mental health the priority it requires, and hope that the next round of consultation will include proposals that will ensure greater accountability and focus on delivery.”

Tina Donnelly, Director of the Royal College of Nursing Wales (RCN), agreed with Hilton that mental health services in Wales are under-resourced.

She told The Western Mail: “RCN Wales believes it would be possible to achieve improvements in mental health service delivery within the proposed seven health organisations if, at a national level, there was a clear setting of service standards, focused performance management, a workforce planning and development strategy and ring-fenced funding for mental health care.”

For more information on Edwina Hart’s statement please visit: http://new.wales.gov.uk/news/topic/health/2008/080930nextsteps/?lang=en