Summary of report content
This report was produced at the request of users of mental health services in Salford and the project was designed to address barriers to mental health services that have been expressed to Healthwatch Salford over a period of time. Healthwatch Salford had received some comments and referrals through the Mental Health Service User Forum (MHSUF) about accessing services and waiting times.
- A group of service users undertook a mystery shopping exercise to assess the effectiveness of the telephone service of a range of community mental health services for adults in Salford, including registered service providers and VSCE groups and organisations. The group felt that it was important that the telephone responder gives out accurate information in an inclusive way or signposted the caller on appropriately.
- Eight community mental health support services in Salford; including registered service providers and VSCE groups and organisations, were identified as potential ‘mystery shop’ areas of interest. Fourteen questionnaires reflecting scenarios around the protected characteristics were created alongside an accessible information telephone questionnaire.
- The phone services for eight key mental health service providers in Salford were inconsistent. The inconsistency was experienced by group as potentially discriminatory.
- The attitude of the frontline staff answering the phones was sometimes good, often acceptable but occasionally poor or very poor.
- It was noted that the receptionist is often the first point of contact to people who may be experiencing a mental health crisis or related to someone who is in distress. A poor experience could deter someone who is in crisis from seeking additional help.
- People may have additional impairments or language barriers that are preventing them from communicating clearly. It is up to the service provider to make the reasonable adjustments required by equality legislation to provide an equal service to all. If front line staff are not doing this consistently, and the indications from this small sample suggests that this may sometimes be the case, then it could lead to serious problems that cost the mental health services money and time, either through an increase in the severity of the mental health problem, or through non-compliance with equality legislation
- Through poor telephone responses, mental health services in the city may also be missing the opportunity to provide essential support to the most vulnerable people in society
- All the phone systems used throughout the service are different – different voices, menus and options. A more consistent, streamlined service would help people to navigate the complexity of the system
The suggestions for actions which have come out of the report, if they are implemented appropriately, may help to ensure that users of mental health services are better able to access the right services that exist in the City of Salford, cutting down on duplication and additional costs due to wasted appointments, increased distress caused by accessing services inappropriate to need, and potential charges of discrimination under the Equality Act 2010.