Welsh Mental Health Patients ‘Let Down’

Mental health patients in Wales are being let down by bureaucracy, according to an audit report. The Welsh assembly’s audit committee said too many patients found themselves in a crisis before help was available. It said different public authorities were failing to work together. The chair of the committee called for “urgent action” from government. The Welsh Assembly Government said improving mental health services in Wales was one of its top priorities. Bill Walden-Jones, chief executive of mental health charity Hafal, said there were two problems facing services in Wales: money and bureaucracy.

He compared the 45 commissioning bodies in Wales to Ireland, where there had been 10. But the Irish government considered 10 “too inefficient,” so it now had only one.

He said: “We think that the real difficulty is that there is far too great a bureaucracy in commissioning health services in Wales.”

Richard Mayes, a former DJ from Swansea, said support for mental health patients was “non-existent”. Mr Mayes said: “It took about six months for me to see a counsellor. I ended up seeing three different ones.

“It was about a year and half later I finally saw a psychiatrist. It’s taken 11 years just to get the medication right.”

Mr Mayes said at the time of his breakdown he suffered panic attacks, nightmares and night terrors, and was unable to continue his work as a DJ.
“The worst thing for me was basically losing my life as a DJ. I spent 23 years doing it, that was my sole bread and butter, my profession,” he said.

Mr Mayes said he was now on the correct medication and doing well, but he felt the service was not there when it was needed.

The report by the audit committee highlighted the need to develop services with a greater focus on the early detection and prevention of mental health problems.

It said the NHS, local government, public health and the voluntary sector needed to work together to improve services.

Janet Davies AM, chair of the committee, said: “We sought to obtain assurances that robust and co-ordinated action is being taken to address the key gaps in service provision identified by the auditor-general for Wales.

“We found that there have been improvements in many areas, but there are still too many people who are not being given the support they need.”

“The Welsh Assembly Government and local agencies need to take urgent action to address these concerns.”

A Welsh Assembly Government spokesman said it was committed to modernising mental health services and driving up their quality. He said: “We have seen big improvements over the last few years.

“However, we acknowledge there is still some way to go to modernise our mental health services across the whole of Wales.

“The report we commissioned from the Wales Audit Office is a useful tool in helping deliver the improvements we are determined to see over the next three years.”