Our Mental Health Today Wales 2017 conference will push mental health services in Wales to ensure they are effective and service users can access what they need earlier. You can buy your Mental Health Today Wales 2017 conference ticket today for 10 May 2017.
When the Mental Health (Wales) Measure was introduced in 2012, it aimed to improve the treatment of people with mental ill health in the principality. It had cross-party support and a number of initiatives were launched to that end, but a survey in mental health charity Gofal in 2016 noted that patient outcomes in primary mental health services had not improved since then.
“What those reports told us consistently was that about 75% of the population found they were getting a good or reasonable response from their GP in terms of empathy and understanding,” explains Ewan Hilton, chief executive of Gofal.
“But there was a stubborn 20-25% of people who weren’t getting a good experience and that didn’t change through the life of the survey.”
Hilton adds that since 2012, some effective initiatives have been introduced, such as 28-day waiting times for assessment, although prescription drugs were still by far the biggest thing people were offered.
“[But when] we asked people questions like ‘did you feel you got what you needed?’ and ‘did you feel that what you got contributed to your improved mental health and wellbeing?’ there was no shift on it.”
For Hilton, this is a crucial point, and something that is fundamental to improving mental health services in Wales. “The focus going forward across the whole of mental health services in Wales has to be about a much better understanding of whether what we are doing for people is really working.
“There has been more money going into mental health services year-on-year in Wales for the past few years and more money going into next year’s budget, but what is it going in for and how do we know it is having the desired effect?”
Co-producing services is the theme for this year's Mental Health Today Wales 2017 conference.
“There is an urgent need to start thinking about mental health services differently, having them out in the community, listening to people and giving them what they need earlier.”
Co-produced services should be at the heart of this, Hilton adds. “It is critical because unless you ask people what they want and involve them in shaping something so fundamental to them then how are we going to know that it works? We have to move from this idea that mental health is something we do to people to something that we co-produce with people.
“Co-production can work, but to do it with integrity and well takes a really long time, a high level of commitment and real leadership.
“What we really need to see in mental health services in Wales from the Cabinet Secretary and Welsh government officials down to health boards, local authorities the third sector and communities themselves is inspirational and transformative leadership.”
In addition, while mental health funding in Wales is ring-fenced, there is no evidence that the money is spent on need, rather than demand, or that it is linked to impact and outcomes – but this needs to happen.
“Mental health services need to be planned, developed and commissioned based on good needs assessment and all spend needs to be linked to ‘is it making any difference?’” Hilton says. “That’s what needs to happen, in short, and I don’t really see enough focus and momentum behind that at the moment and that is something we [Gofal] will continue to call for.”
You can buy your Mental Health Today Wales 2017 conference ticket today for 10 May 2017.
Dan Parton is a journalist and former editor of Mental Health Today.