Experiences of using Community mental health during the pandemic

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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. 


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General details

Report title 
Experiences of using Community mental health during the pandemic
Local Healthwatch 
Healthwatch North Somerset
Date of publication 
Friday, 30 April, 2021
Date evidence capture began 
Tuesday, 1 September, 2020
Date evidence capture finished 
Saturday, 31 October, 2020
Key themes 
Communication between staff and patients
Digitalisation of services
Holistic support
Quality of care
Quality of treatment

Methodology and approach

Was the work undertaken at the request of another organisation? 
Primary research method used 
Focus group
If an Enter and View methodology was applied, was the visit announced or unannounced? 

Details of health and care services included in the report

Mental health services 
Community mental health team (CMHT)

Details about conditions and diseases

Types of disabilities 
Mental health
Types of long term conditions 
Mental health condition
What type of pregnancy or maternity themes are included in the report 

Details of people who shared their views

Number of people who shared their views 
Age group 
All people 18 and over
Other ethnic group
Sexual orientation 
Does the information include public's views? 
Does the information include carer's, friend's or relative's views? 
Does the information include staff's views? 
What was the main sentiment of the people who shared their views? 

Outcomes and impact

Were recommendations made by local Healthwatch in the report? 
Does the information contain a response from a provider? 
Is there evidence of impact in the report? 
Is there evidence of impact external to the report? 
Not known

Network Impact
Relationships that exist locally, regionally, nationally have benefited from the work undertaken in the report
Implied Impact
Where it is implied that change may occur in the future as a result of Healthwatch work. This can be implied in a provider  response, press release or other source. Implied impact can become tangible impact once change has occurred.
Tangible Impact
There is evidence of change that can be directly attributed to Healthwatch work undertaken in the report.