'Our mental health system is failing' – Bleak warning over state of care in Suffolk
PUBLISHED: 05:30 22 November 2018 | UPDATED: 07:31 22 November 2018
Suffolk’s mental health and wellbeing system is failing and people are struggling to access support they need – even in moments of crisis.
That’s the stark warning from a damning new report which examines challenges faced by the thousands of people living with mental illnesses in our communities.
Waiting times are still too long – and despite more cash being invested, outcomes for patients are not yet good enough, claim the authors of the 2019-29 mental health and emotional wellbeing strategy for east and west Suffolk.
Deprivation impacts on demand for mental health services, the report adds, warning even more areas of Suffolk are now in the 20% and 40% most deprived in England, with Ipswich among the worst-affected.
Hard-hitting data in the document, sourced from Suffolk County Council (SCC)’s 2018 mental health needs assessment, reveals nearly 50,000 people in Suffolk (49,315) were diagnosed with depression as of 2016/17.
And the rate of people being rushed to A&E after self-harming was higher in Suffolk than in the whole of England for that year.
Almost 1,400 (1,396) emergency admissions were recorded – that’s equal to four people every day – at a rate of 200 people per 100,000, higher than the national rate of 185 per 100,000. Ipswich recorded even more, with a rate of 262 self-harm admissions per 100,000.
“Despite the best intentions and hard work of many people, the system for mental health and wellbeing in Suffolk is failing,” the report by Healthwatch Suffolk and the Ipswich, East Suffolk and West Suffolk clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) warns.
“The people of Suffolk have told us they are unable to find or gain access to the mental health support they need – even in moments of crisis.”
The document makes it clear CCGs commission mental health services in Suffolk via NHS organisations and SCC.
And while the main mental health provider is Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT), 90% of people with mental health issues are cared for within the primary sector.
NSFT, which is currently in special measures, is awaiting the outcome of a new inspection report.
In this document, CCG leaders claim its current ‘inadequate’ rating poses problems when recruiting mental health staff.
Its special measures status also reduces public confidence in the quality of services, the authors claim.
Mental health trust: ‘Demand has increased’
Bosses at NSFT say demand has increased over recent years.
Operations director Peter Devlin said: “There is more public awareness around mental health issues than ever before, which we regard as an extremely positive development.
“The stigma attached to mental health, while still there, has reduced which is another reason why more people are willing to seek help.
“As one in four people will experience a mental health problem at some stage, there is also a demographic factor to these rising numbers locally because the population of Suffolk continues to grow.
He added: “We have and will continue to work with a wide range of partners to ensure the people we serve have the best possible mental health services.
“We are just one of many providers of these services.
“Others include GPs – the draft strategy states ‘90% of people with mental health problems are cared for within primary care’, including school nurses, children’s centres, health visitors and the third sector.”
Vision for the future
CCG bosses set out their vision to transform mental health services across east and west Suffolk in the report.
Working with Healthwatch Suffolk, leaders have spoken to thousands of patients in an effort to make services more accessible to everyone.
Using a mix of GPs, nurses and support workers, they aim to make mental ill health “everyone’s business” and ensure all patients receive appropriate treatment quickly, using a more joined-up approach and using a 24/7 mental health first responder service.
Next week’s board meeting will offer an in-depth look at the new strategy for 2019-29, bosses said.
If successful, chiefs aim to deliver a “timetable for change” by the end of January 2019.
“This is a genuine opportunity for meaningful change and for the CCGs and wider healthcare system in Suffolk to integrate physical and mental wellbeing services more effectively,” a spokesman said.