Summary of report content
Healthwatch North Somerset decided to review residents’ experiences of accessing community mental health services since the lockdown in March 2020, as they had heard a lot of feedback from residents before the pandemic hit about problems accessing the right support with mental health and since the pandemic started, most face to face support for mental health had been stopped. They held a focus group with 5 people and a survey to which 78 people responded. The feedback was gathered during September and October 2020 to understand challenges faced in the six months since the first national lockdown.
Three in five respondents had appointment cancelled or therapies changed since lockdown commenced in March 2020, and 20% of these were not offered alternatives. Service users have become stressed by the effects of the COVID-19 restrictions and identified reasons as: isolation, the worry over the health of family members as well as their own health, and the frequent changes to "the guidelines". Extreme sufferers from mental health problems frequently felt suicidal.
Service users reported their access was greatly reduced, and response to requests for support were slow or insufficient. They mostly turned to their GPs or a known community health provider. These did not provide a good service for half of the respondents. Some reported health professionals unreceptive to requests for help.
Face-to-face therapies were considered more efficacious especially for those with more severe mental health problems. For some a mix of phone and video therapies with occasional face-to-face support was preferred. Half of service users considered self-help information contradictory and not particularly helpful.
The report contains five recommendations to improve access to mental health support.