Improving Mental Health Support with Healthwatch

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(Last Updated On: August 14, 2018)

Issues around mental health have been in the news this year, and now national healthcare consumer champion Healthwatch England have published details of their timely new project.

Local communities across England have told Healthwatch that they want to see mental health prioritised, while since January 2016 over 35,000 people have shared their experiences with them, covering every element of mental health support.

Encouragingly, the work of Healthwatch has shown that gathering the views of people in need of better mental health support, from teenagers in Bristol to army veterans in Norfolk, can lead to positive change.

Now Healthwatch want to understand more about people’s experiences of mental health care at different stages in their lives and to inform mental health policy and practice to make the improvements in support that people would like to see.

Mental Care Issues

According to Healthwatch England research, the six common concerns that people have are:

  • People struggle to find information about what support is available.
  • Mental and physical health needs are treated in isolation.
  • People feel services don’t work well together to provide care.
  • Waiting times for diagnosis and then access to services are often seen as too long.
  • Professionals don’t always understand people’s needs.
  • People are not involved in decisions that affect them.
Steps Already Being Taken

In 2016, NHS England set a number targets to help improve people’s experiences of mental health support, including more 24/7 services for people experiencing a mental health crisis, an expansion of community mental health services, and supporting 30,000 more women within perinatal mental health services by 2020/21.

This focus on mental health care was supported by the Healthwatch network but, as current targets are largely focused on increasing activity rather than evaluating the impact on people’s experiences, it will be difficult to understand the full impact.

For example, more people with depression and anxiety have been able to access talking therapy services as a result of extra investment, but is this support delivering the outcomes that people want? Are they having a good experience of care?

What Healthwatch Wants To Do

Healthwatch will look at the mental health support people want, from childhood to old age, including examining how people from different sections of the community experience life with a mental health condition and identifying solutions that address people’s broader needs rather than treating mental health in isolation.

The ultimate aim is to make sure future mental health reforms focus on measuring the outcomes most important to people and to continually use people’s feedback to improve.

The first area to be will explored is the mental health support available to new parents.

As many as one in five pregnant women and new mums experience some form of mental health challenge. Partners can also be affected, with the National Childbirth Trust estimating that one in three new dads are concerned about their mental health.

This month Healthwatch will be starting a first research phase to better understand people’s experiences of maternity and mental health, surveying the public, local Healthwatch and stakeholders.

All local Healthwatch across England, including Healthwatch Torbay, are encouraging their local communities to take part in this consultation to provide a better picture of the current quality of mental health care in their area and highlight exactly where improvements need to be made.

How to Get Involved

If you’re a member of the public
If you/and your partner are currently planning, are pregnant or have had a child in the last three years, please fill in our survey. Alternatively, please help to share our survey online and encourage others to complete it.Take the survey via https://www.healthwatch.co.uk/having-baby-and-effect-your-mental-health

If you’re an interested stakeholder
Share your views on maternity and mental health with us and help us gain a deeper insight into people’s experiences.
Take the survey via https://www.healthwatch.co.uk/maternity-and-mental-health-stakeholder-survey

Find out more about the project and what Healthwatch England intend to do via https://www.healthwatch.co.uk/report/2018-08-02/mental-health-support-overview-our-future-work.

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(Author)

Apart from five years studying in Oxford I’ve lived most of my life in London where for many years I was Head of English in a prestigious girls’ school, but since taking early retirement and heading West to be nearer to my two daughters - settling in Torbay with my wife, Anna, in 2011 - I’ve worked in the voluntary sector. I took on the role of Service Provider, for example, promoting the Red Cross Torbay Navigators Project, while now I’m a Trustee and part of the Media Team for our local Healthwatch. I’m a governor at Torquay Academy, too, giving me the chance to stay up to date with what’s happening in the world of education. Other interests, aside from friends and family, include art and art history, reading - from contemporary fiction and poetry to Elizabethan/Jacobean literature - history, politics, cooking, walking, and music, in particular Bob Dylan, the blues, and early Elvis. I love writing, too, with one novel published so far – Elvis in Wonderland – and another, Who’s There?, that still needs plenty of work!