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Failings in mental health services revealed in report

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A NUMBER of failings, including long waiting lists and staff recruitment problems, in the Bailiwick’s mental health services have been exposed in a major study.

(Picture by Adrian Miller, 26026398)

Following a Guernsey Mind-commissioned independent Your Voice survey by Mind UK’s research and evaluation team in June, research has revealed a mental health system that is working hard to support people, but facing severe pressures from a number of directions.

Secondary care, which includes specialist services, such as those given from hospital settings such as the Oberlands, for patients with more serious or complex psychiatric disorders, was seen to have the most failings.

Challenges for the system included severe pressures from an increasingly large and complex case load, staff recruitment problems, training gaps, limited opportunities for service user feedback, and a lack of collaboration between sectors.

One service user even highlighted this in his response

‘One thing I realised is that everyone is doing a great job,’ he said.

‘But everyone is doing their own job and there are no interconnections between all organisations.

‘I think for me it was the wrong way to look after any mental issue.

‘We need primary care, secondary and third sectors working together with the private, with the public organisations or we are wasting our time, our effort, our knowledge and our human resources.’

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The survey also found longer secondary care access waiting lists, with 44% of service users stating it was longer than expected and a lack of 24-hour crisis care, which could explain the increase in severe and complex presentations from people who have not received immediate support.

In respect of this however, primary care and voluntary service experiences were found to be largely positive.

Health & Social Care president Heidi Soulsby accepted while secondary care faces greater challenges, there were improvements being made.

‘We should recognise that the majority of service users were positive about the care they receive,’ she said.

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‘That’s down to the hard work of all our staff who, as the report recognises, face a growing and increasingly complex workload.

‘With regard to the role of the voluntary sector and the need for more information and a more joined-up approach, collaborative working is a key principle of the new model of care and Mind is a member of the steering group overseeing the implementation of the Mental Health and Wellbeing Plan.’

The survey has resulted in 17 recommendations, such as improved GP guidance and annual patient experience surveys to help improve the provision of mental health services across the Bailiwick.

Although HSC has stated how far it can go is dependent on funding and resources.

‘We will now take time to look over the recommendations in detail to see how best we can deliver them,’ Deputy Soulsby added.

‘As we’ve highlighted previously, the demands across HSC are rapidly increasing and funding is no longer enough to provide the level of care the community expects.

‘It is time for a bigger public discussion about what people are able and willing to pay.’

The study comes in response to the Mental Health & Wellbeing Plan for Guernsey 2017-20 that is integral to achieving the 20-year vision of the Policy & Resource Plan, that many felt had limited guidance from service users.

This led to the Your Voice survey, which saw 1,023 service users and 126 professionals discuss their experiences of mental health services across primary, secondary and voluntary sectors in the island.

Guernsey Mind said it was pleased to see the amount of people respond to the survey, however, pointed out the need for more to be done, following the States’ recent wellbeing survey.

‘The WSGA 2018 showed that 27% of over 50s and 45% of under 50s described themselves as experiencing large amounts of stress,’ said executive director Emily Litten.

‘Furthermore, 28% of over 50s and 35% of under 50s living in Guernsey describe themselves as being intensely socially lonely.

‘Our mental health needs are more important than ever, and we need to listen to the community voice and work together to do better.’

Since the survey, HSC has been accepted as a signatory to the Prevention Concordat for Better Mental Health and undertaken a gap analysis of services, which resulted in them requesting funding for the development of a mental health and wellbeing centre.

Danielle Kenneally

By Danielle Kenneally
News reporter

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