Hafal welcomes inquiry which says “Cinderella” mental health services in Wales require “urgent action to improve”.

Welsh mental health charity Hafal has welcomed an inquiry into mental health service provision in Wales by the National Assembly’s Health, Wellbeing and Local Government Committee which highlighted a need for urgent action to improve services.

The Committee examined the provision of community-based mental health services in Wales for people aged 16-60 years focusing on issues such as the capacity and geographical availability of services and the provision of services for young people over 16 years in transition from children’s to adult services as well as examples of good practice in the delivery of services.

The inquiry, which made 28 recommendations:

• Acknowledged that mental health is often characterised as a “Cinderella service” due to its relative lack of status among other health and social care specialties.

• Recommended that the current restructuring of the NHS should be seen by the Government as an opportunity to afford mental health services a higher priority in the new NHS bodies.

• Stated that the Adult Mental Health National Service Framework – the key mechanism for improving services – has not been fully implemented and that its achievements have been limited.

“Poor mental health can have a profound effect on our quality of life and cut us off from friends, family and society,” said Committee Chair Darren Millar AM.

“Our overall impression of these services is that they vary considerably in availability and quality. There have been some improvements but there is some way to go before services achieve acceptable standards throughout Wales”.

Notable recommendations in the Committee’s 39-page report included the following:

• That the Welsh Government adopts the Recovery Model of mental health in Wales and incorporates it into its strategic mental health policies and the National Service Framework. [Recommendation 1]

• That the Welsh Government undertakes further work with the newly established Local Health Boards and with local government to ensure that community mental health services are provided through the medium of Welsh wherever they are needed. [Recommendation 3]

• That the Minister keeps the role of the Vice Chair in the new Local Health Boards under review subject to evidence that mental health services are afforded the priority they merit by the new Local Health Boards. [Recommendation 5]

• The establishment of a mental health service specifically for young people aged 17-25 that would facilitate a transition to adult services at a time that is appropriate for each young person and is based on clinical judgement rather than service configuration. [Recommendation 16]

Commenting on the recommendations Bill Walden-Jones, Chief Executive of Hafal, Wales’ principal charity for people with serious mental illness and their carers, said: “We welcome the Committee’s inquiry and endorse many of the recommendations made.

“The Inquiry recognises what patients already know: that mental health services lag behind other health and social care provision. It also shows that although the Assembly Government has made mental health a priority this has not always trickled down to commissioning in the NHS and local authorities.

“We need a change of culture. Performance management in the NHS needs to be prioritised and local government needs to ensure it delivers improved services. Patients want holistic, bespoke, personalised care plans.

“The Minister set a care planning target in May when she issued guidance stating that a key chapter on care planning in last year’s Welsh Code of Practice for the Mental Health Act ‘should be used as good practice for all enhanced care plans’.

“The Welsh Code of Practice for the Mental Health Act makes it a legal requirement for patients subject to the Mental Health Act to have a comprehensive care plan. The Code said that all plans should cover the following areas:

• Medical treatment
• Other forms of treatment including psychological therapies
• Personal care and physical well-being
• Accommodation
• Work and occupation
• Training and education
• Finance and money
• Social, cultural and spiritual
• Parenting or caring relationships

“It is this focus on effective care planning that provides an opportunity to drive up service standards.

“It is urgent that the Welsh Assembly Government acts upon the Committee’s findings because the new Local Health Boards are coming into operation very shortly and they will need to fully engage with the issues facing mental health. Also it is becoming clear that there will soon be major cuts in public spending. If mental health is not significantly invested in and backed up with performance management it will be at risk of seeing cuts in funding.

“The recommendations in the Inquiry are timely and our hope is that the Welsh Assembly Government acts quickly on the extremely important issues which have been raised.”

The photograph which appears in the box relating to this story on the Mental Health Wales homepage is of Darren Millar AM.

To direcly access a PDF of the report please visit: http://www.assemblywales.org/cr-ld7697

To access the Committee’s website please visit: http://www.assemblywales.org/bus-home/bus-committees/bus-committees-third1/bus-committees-third-hwlg-home.htm