Welsh Conservatives Debate: Community Mental Health Teams (3/4/19)

Janet:

I think it's fairly evident that, here today, many of our Members, cross party, recognise the urgency for continued improvement in our provision for mental healthcare support. We are all too aware that mental health problems do not discriminate; they effect mothers, children, fathers, expectant mothers, young people, adults, the middle age, the elderly generation and those with other ailments and diagnosed conditions compounding the problem. While attending to mental health requires a considerable degree of of self-care and the implementation of healthy lifestyle habits, for victims of adverse and traumatic experiences and severe mental health crises, proper mental health intervention and care is essential. Yet, our mental health services and the current organisation and management of our health boards are currently, in some instances, too ill-equipped to deal with this demand. The quality of care that is required to prevent a further increase of suicide rates—among young people and male adults in particular—substance abuse and debilitating mental health illness is profound.

As an Assembly Member—a constituency Member with an office in the town of Llandudno—sadly, I see too much anecdotal evidence of people who simply cannot access mental health support or any form of counselling or anything, at a time when they present at a time of major crisis. Indeed, Presiding Officer, the training and retention of qualified medical staff and professionals is one of my chief concerns. According to Mind, as part of the GP training curriculum, currently, just one of 21 clinical modules are focused on mental health, and the number of rotations that trainee doctors complete in a mental health environment has been decreasing in the last five years. It's going backwards. Yet, these trends are not reflecting that mental health issues are now the modern-day epidemic and the fact that a third of GP appointments now relate to mental health issues.

So, I ask the Minister, in all honesty and in all sincerity, how can the Welsh Government ensure that trainee medical professionals and doctors are receiving the training—the relevant training—that is really needed for our current generational needs, whilst—

 

Leanne Wood AM:

Will you take an intervention?

 

Janet:

Yes, sure.

 

Leanne Wood AM:

Do you agree with what my colleague Helen Mary Jones said—that many people's problems with mental health could well be linked to welfare reform? And if you do accept that, do you accept that if we had control over some aspects of welfare reform here, we could mitigate some of those worse aspects of it?

 

Janet:

What I would say, with respect, to the Member is that there is a plethora of reasons why mental health issues—

 

Leanne Wood AM:

But is welfare reform one of them?

 

Janet:

And, to be honest, let's—. We are talking about mental health problems and how we, across this Chamber, can work towards—

 

Leanne Wood AM:

Causes?

 

Janet:

Welfare reform—let's have that debate another day. But I'm more concerned about my constituents who cannot access treatment and support when they need it, Leanne.

Furthermore, turning to the delivery of healthcare, I wish to draw particular attention to the disparate and unequal provision of crisis care and out-of-hours services. This regional discrepancy is epitomised by Swansea, which offers a 24/7 emergency telephone point, compared to Bridgend and Neath Port Talbot, which only run this service from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. And, I'll be honest, I don't have any provision in Aberconwy that I know of, or my constituents know of, after 5 o'clock. People, when they present, when they feel at their lowest ebb—it can be at 2 o'clock in the morning, it can be at 4 o'clock in the afternoon, it can be at 7.15 of an evening, and we do not have those services in place. We do need a 365 24/7 support system somehow in Wales.

The crisis relief situation is even more alarming for children and young people. In Cwm Taf and Cardiff and Vale, CAMHS crisis teams are available from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week, yet in Powys no services are available on the weekends or after 5 p.m.. 'What justifies this variation?' I ask the Minister. Surely, equality to access to services should be an endemic thread running through any service that he provides as a health Minister.

Indeed, regarding management, the Chamber should also be aware of the accommodation issues for high-risk young people. My colleague Mohammad Asghar really elaborated well on the problems that are being highlighted in the lack of recruitment of people in the Abergele unit, which sees people—and it also sees local authorities and health boards spending hundreds of thousands of pounds when we're perfectly well-equipped, in terms of equipment and the buildings in Abergele, but we don't have the trained, qualified staff.

In Aberconwy, the cancellation of mental health appointments at very short notice due to a shortage of consultant psychiatrists and other specialist advocates has adversely affected patients at Nant y Glyn and Roslin. And when you do present with a mental health issue, to suddenly have your appointment cancelled is the most debilitating issue in the world, it really is. When raised as a matter of concern, little heed is taken.

Now, I look forward to the forthcoming 2019-22 'Together for Mental Health' delivery plan, but let this not be another delivery plan with ambitious targets and lots of words with very few actions. I would ask the Minister: please, concentrate on the needs of those with mental health issues across Wales, and let's be pioneers and champions for them, because they are a very integral part of our society.