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What people think of mental health services

12/02/16

People have told local Healthwatch that mental health is a key priority. With the Mental Health Taskforce due to report its findings soon, we look in more detail at the challenges people have been sharing.

We ask local Healthwatch every year to tell us what matters most to local people regarding health and social care.

Access to and the quality of mental health services was raised as a priority by more than half of local Healthwatch, making it the number one issue for 2016.

Key challenges that people shared:

1.Mental health awareness, prevention and early intervention

  • People feel that there is still progress to be made regarding people’s understanding of mental health. People told local Healthwatch about feeling stigmatised and that they were not given the support they needed because their conditions were either not recognised or taken seriously.
  • Local Healthwatch have spoken to young people to find out how much they know about mental health and where to go for support. They found that young people want better access to help and information both in and outside school, and to be enabled to look after their wellbeing on an ongoing basis.  
  • We heard that people find some GPs to be particularly helpful when it comes to discussing mental health, whilst others are less confident in this area. People said that short appointments can also limit their ability to discuss mental health as well as physical health concerns.

2. Access to effective and appropriate support for all 

  • People spoke about difficulties getting the right support at the right time. They told local Healthwatch about delays in being assessed, a need for improved communication between professionals, and for greater low level support to prevent people’s conditions escalating.
  • We know from our Special inquiry into what happens when people leave hospital and mental health settings that people are not always able to access the support they need when in crisis. Local Healthwatch have continued to hear that this is an issue. This was highlighted particularly regarding new mothers who develop mental health conditions, such as Postpartum psychosis, after having a baby.
  • We heard about the critical role that parents and carers play, and that their roles need to be recognised and supported.

3. Patient and family involvement in care and discharge planning

  • A number of local Healthwatch heard how important it is that people's families are well informed about plans to discharge them from hospital and mental health settings, and about their ongoing care needs.
  • We found that people had a very mixed knowledge of and involvement in their care plans, and that poor communication between professionals, staff and families led to confusion.

4. Investigation into patient's safety and quality of care in mental health settings

  • Local Healthwatch heard about instances where people have been concerned for people's safety whilst in mental health settings, and about whether their worries will be listened to. During visits to institutions, local Healthwatch find out about patient experiences, write up their findings make recommendations regarding any improvements that are needed.

How is this information used locally?

Local Healthwatch share what people tell them with with local services.  For example, Healthwatch Essex invited young people to share their daily experiences of health and care, which helped NHS and Councils in Essex, Southend and Thurrock launch a £3.3 million plan to improve mental health for children and young people.


What should I do if I want to share my experiences?

All of this work that our network has done so far has highlighted how incredibly important it is that people are given the opportunity to share their experiences to help inform changes for the future. We look forward to seeing more mental health providers working with local Healthwatch – and through them local people – to make sure that services meet the needs of the people who use them.

If you would like to share your experiences of local mental health services, get in touch with your local Healthwatch.

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