Summary of report content
Healthwatch Newcastle and Healthwatch Gateshead, in partnership with other local organisations, carried out research to explore people’s views and experiences of mental health services. This work included mini-projects which focused on the views and experiences of groups or communities who had not been involved, or had only had limited involvement, in recent reviews of local mental health services. These groups were: LGBT people; veterans; the African/Caribbean community; students in higher educations; people who are homeless or living in insecure accommodation; and people in receipt of Universal Credit. A wide variety of methods were used to gather information, including: one-to-one interviews, focus groups, creative data capture, and online surveys.
Based on the issues reported by the people who shared their experiences, general recommendations were made to encourage providers and commissioners of local mental health services to work with the local community, particularly the groups who took part in this research, to: provide accessible and inclusive information about mental wellbeing and the mental health services available; ensure staff are trained to guarantee people are treated appropriately, with respect and understanding; investigate ways to reduce waiting times and/or reduce the negative impact of long waiting times on service users; and develop a service so that people have someone to talk to informally while waiting to access treatment, while treatment is ongoing, after treatment, or as an alternative to more formal treatment.
The report also makes focused recommendations for some of the specific groups and communities included in this research. These include ensuring providers and commissioners work with: people who are homeless or living in insecure accommodation and their colleagues in drug and alcohol services, to ensure that services are inclusive for people with histories of trauma and coexisting mental health and substance use issues; the African/Caribbean community to ensure steps are taken to support this community to recognise the triggers and early signs of mental health issues, and break down the stigma attached to mental ill-health; the LGBT community to ensure that people can always choose whether they see a male or female professional and can access specialist services where needed; and with veterans to include a mandatory question about previous military service at the assessment stage of any treatment, to allow civilian health and social care organisations to better understand the issues veterans face.