Survey raises concerns about the provision of mental health services in Wales during the Covid-19 outbreak

A national survey by Welsh charity Hafal has revealed the problems experienced by patients across Wales in accessing support during the Covid-19 outbreak.

The survey, which was completed by over 300 participants from across the country, reveals that while the mental health of 74% of respondents has been negatively affected by the coronavirus outbreak, nearly two thirds (63%) had been unable to access their GP in the previous two weeks.

Almost half of respondents (46%) had not been informed about what is happening with mental health services in their area, and 37% had services cancelled within the previous fortnight. 14% had experienced difficulties in getting hold of their Community Mental Health Team, and 44% had not been informed about what they should do or who to contact if their mental health deteriorates or they experience a crisis.

Participants reported a number of issues with mental health services during the lockdown including the following:

“I booked an ’emergency appointment’ (in January) for the middle of March, this was cancelled by telephone, until further notice, three hours before I was due to be there.”

“My review was cancelled. I had a lot I wanted to discuss and don’t know when it will be rescheduled.”

“My partner’s ECT has been cancelled because of this Covid-19. He has become very low and is depressed and suicidal. Spoken to the CMHT but they said it can’t be helped it’s the virus?”

“My CPN has left. I don’t know who my new one is and not heard from anyone.”

Hafal’s Chief Executive Alun Thomas said: “The survey results are extremely concerning and they confirm what we are hearing on the ground: that people are often so concerned that services are under pressure from Covid-19 that they are not calling for help when they first need it, but that when they do ultimately call for help they are struggling to access mental health services during the lockdown.

“For people with a serious mental illness, this poses a real threat to health and wellbeing.”

In an open letter to the Minister earlier this month Hafal Chair Mair Elliott raised her concerns about the current state of mental health provision, stating: “As Chair of mental health charity Hafal I am writing to you urgently to express my grave concerns about the safety of the most vulnerable mental health patients and their carers and families in Wales during the coronavirus outbreak and to seek your assurance that their safety will not be compromised.

“We are witnessing the almost complete disappearance of CMHT support, access to clozapine clinics for our clients significantly impacted, early discharge from inpatient units, and closure of inpatient units with major reconfiguration of services seemingly focused on dementia beds.”

Hafal is continuing to support people with a mental illness across Wales via its 22 county networks and through it’s “Promise” which pledges ongoing support to anyone in its client group.

For more information, or for a full summary of the survey findings, please contact Matt Pearce, Head of Communications, by email at matthew.pearce@hafal.org