Welsh NHS Reforms Are an Opportunity to Improve Mental Health Care Services

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), August 24, 2009 | Go to article overview

Welsh NHS Reforms Are an Opportunity to Improve Mental Health Care Services


Byline: Mike Ponton

IN just over a month, NHS Wales will have a completely new structure, with new organisations and a new outlook on health in Wales.

Among the benefits we hope to see is a renewed and strengthened profile for mental health.

The Minister for Health and Social Services has shown her commitment to mental health through the appointment of a director of community, primary and mental health and by giving the vice-chair particular responsibility to oversee these three key areas.

These are welcome steps and the new look for NHS Wales provides us with a real opportunity.

A lot has changed in the past 20 years to modernise mental health services.

There has been a significant move away from lengthy in-patient stays towards a model of community care, day treatment and treating people in their own homes.

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But despite this progress, the transformation is not yet complete, and mental health often still suffers with the label of being a Cinderella service.

This has been the case for too long, but now with fresh impetus behind the drive to modernise mental health and raise its profile, NHS Wales has an opportunity to become one of the leading countries in the world when it comes to getting the right model in place.

We are well placed to make this vision a reality - a 2008 report from the World Health Organisation showed that England and Wales were the only countries in Europe to report that all people with mental health disorders have access to assertive outreach services, such as crisis resolution teams, who treat people in their own homes.

It is important that we build on this progress, and accelerate the rate at which out-of-hospital care becomes the norm.

The new local health boards have been tasked with listening and responding to the voice and opinions of service users, and taking action to make mental health services accessible, sustainable and responsive to people's needs.

The task is clear, challenging, and in some cases, growing. …

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