Summary of report content
Healthwatch County Durham engaged with over 300 mental health service users and staff members. Surveys, one-to-one case studies, and information stands were used to gather people's experiences of mental health services.
The report found that the majority of people accessing mental health services did so through their GP or another medical professional. Over half of people accessing mental health services have experienced poor mental health for over 12 months, and less than 5% seek help within the (NHS) recommended 2 weeks of experiencing symptoms such as low mood, lack of interest or enjoyment in life and worrying more than normal. In addition to this, it was raised that people experience difficulties in finding information on local mental health services. Many reported that they simply did not know where to go for help or information and GP appointments were not always readily available. A number of service users expressed concerns that having completed their initial course of therapy and believing they required the next level of treatment, the assessment guidelines did not render them ‘unwell enough’ to receive additional therapy. In terms of waiting times, the majority of the people were seen within 12 weeks, with 18% still waiting for treatment after this time (the national target is 18 weeks). Mental Health professionals reported that, when asked what could be done to improve mental health support in the workplace, reducing caseloads, flexible working, listening to staff concerns and more support beyond a phased return to work were suggested.
The recommendations made in the report centred around processes and staffing; patients, therapies and appointments; and raising awareness of mental health.