Old people with docWelsh mental health charity Gofal has published a report about primary mental health services in Wales that shows no improvement in patient outcomes since the implementation of the Mental Health (Wales) Measure in 2012.

The Mental Health Measure aims to improve the treatment of people with mental health problems in Wales. Part 1 of the Measure aims to improve access to primary mental health services and improve outcomes for patients.

Gofal’s report ‘Snapshot 4: Three years on’ compares data from four Wales-wide surveys of people’s experiences of primary mental health services since Part One of the Mental Health Measure came into force in October 2012. Over 800 people have responded to each of Gofal’s annual surveys (a total of over 3,600 people), which asked for their views and experiences of four key areas:

  • The understanding and empathy demonstrated by primary care staff
  • The range of advice, treatment and support options offered to people
  • Waiting times for assessment, treatment and support
  • The impact of these services on people’s mental health and wellbeing
  • Understanding and empathy

This year’s survey shows that counsellors, therapists and GPs demonstrated the highest levels of empathy and understanding, with receptionists perceived to show the lowest. Data shows that patient outcomes are significantly better for those who had a ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ understanding and empathetic GP compared to those who had a ‘slightly’ or ‘not at all’ understanding and empathetic GP. Comments from survey respondents indicated that negative attitudes from primary care staff made them feel ‘invalidated’ and less likely to seek help in the future.

Gofal Chief Executive Ewan Hilton said: “It is extremely concerning that outcomes do not appear to have improved since the implementation of Part 1 of the Mental Health (Wales) Measure. This report is evidence that we are far from ‘job done’ and the Welsh Government, health boards and local authorities must continue to resource primary mental health care and improve services. It is absolutely essential that health boards and the Welsh Government start to collect consistent and transparent patient outcome data across Wales in order to determine whether this legislation is having the desired impact on people’s lives. Although there appears to have been improvements in the range of advice, treatment and support offered to patients, all other treatment options still trail behind the huge proportion of people offered prescription medication.

"Waiting times also appear to have improved but many survey respondents have told us that they are still waiting too long to access one-to-one psychological therapies. It is imperative that health boards and the Welsh Government start to collect waiting time data for one-to-one psychological therapies in order to shine a light and focus resources on this issue. We know that there are many people in health boards who are deeply committed to improving services, not least demonstrated by their funding of this latest survey. However, they need ongoing resources and support, as well as the tools to capture outcomes, act on the evidence and deliver improvements to services and outcomes.”