Peterborough Healthwatch has highlighted a number of escalating concerns relating to local mental health services for adults and children in the city.
The concerns are described in a new report published at its meeting yesterday (Wednesday, January 16).
Jonathan Wells, Healthwatch Peterborough director and mental health professional with 34 years experience, said: “The problems around timely access to specialist adult mental health services locally have been recognised for the past three to four years.
“Despite increases in funding, access to mental health support across the country is increasingly acknowledged as a major issue, with Healthwatch England receiving predominantly negative feedback on mental health issues from over 34,000 experiences.
“The information that we receive via our partner organisations clearly shows that access to mental health services is becoming harder, when it should be getting easier, and more worrying is this is particularly the case for people in the mid-range of risk and need.”
Speaking to directors of the organisation at their public board meeting in St Ives, CEO Sandie Smith went on to add: “Nationally there is a target of 35 per cent of those needing funded NHS mental health services getting them by 2020/21.
“The Peterborough health economy is working towards the same target date of April 2021, but accepts that even if it is achieved – which is doubtful – that means that two-thirds of young people will not be in receipt of the mental health services they desperately need.”
The report highlights several areas of concern, including: access to services, unclear eligibility and pathways, opportunities for more user involvement and shortages of staff and funding.
Chairperson Val Moore pointed out: “People always automatically think that problems in the NHS are all about money, but money provides us with the opportunity to train and employ better and more qualified staff. There are models of best practice that can increase service contact time, and we must find ways to implement these in Peterborough.
“We know about the areas where we do well – the First Response Service, the Suicide Prevention Programme, primary care mental health services (PRISM), the voluntary sector, the charities as well as the sanctuaries – these are all working hard to improve access.
“But, it is generally acknowledged these services are not able to meet demand. We have to concentrate on where we are not doing so well and key to this is further clarity of eligibility – we simply cannot continue failing to meet the minimum criteria in order to comply with the threshold for adults needing care and support.”
Mr Wells added: “The expansion of the Peer Support Work teams is one area that we can look at immediately as they provide an invaluable service. They may not have medical qualifications, but they play a vital role in bridging the gap between immediate and delayed mental health services being given.”
The board of directors will meet next in Chatteris on March 13 when a further progress update is expected.