A Jury of local people from across North Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent launched the findings of its investigation into appropriate access to adult mental health services at an event attended by over 60 people on Thursday last week.
The Patient Congresses of the local areas’ NHS clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), with full approval of the Governing Bodies, empowered a panel of carers, patients and providers of mental health services to conduct their own inquiry into how access to appropriate adult mental health services could be improved.
The findings and recommendations resulting from over 12 months work were discussed with other patients and providers of local mental health services at a Community Conversation held at the Bridge Centre, Birches Head which was also attended by Deputy Lieutenant Mrs Hifsa Haroon-Iqbal MBE DL.
Margy Woodhead, Stoke-on-Trent CCG’s Lay Board Member for Patient and Public Involvement (PPI), who jointly led the process said: “The power of this Citizens’ Jury is in the way it reaches out to gather the views of patients and carers at grass roots level to inform its findings and final report. I passionately believe that the best way to improve health services is to listen to the people who really know how those services feel, what differences they can make and how they can be improved.”
“Over the 12 months of the review, the members of the jury considered national research and local data, they spoke to many people who experience accessing mental health services including those who use the services and sometimes find it difficult to give feedback or make their opinions known. Professionals and voluntary groups were also involved in giving evidence to the process.
“The ground breaking work led to a series of 14 recommendations focussed around access to services, awareness raising of services available, diagnosis, mental health crisis services and treatment which were accepted and approved by the CCGs’ Governing Bodies. CCGs will now develop an action plan which will include further involvement of the jurors to implement the recommendations.”
A full copy of the report and recommendations is attached. But the recommendations included:
- To develop one single, memorable helpline number for mental health service users operating 24/7
- Establish new community resource rooms around the area
- To commission mental health “First Aid” training for those closest to people with mental health needs such as carers, friends and relatives
- Improve the ability to respond immediately to someone having a mental health crisis
- Making it easier to access the most appropriate services and support
Peter Dartford, North Staffordshire CCG’s Lay Board Member for PPI who also led the project said: “It is clear that whilst there are many excellent services for people with mental health needs, more could be done, and people can find reaching the right service confusing. The stories we heard told us that people can face longer delays than we would want when in need and that’s why some people with mental health issues end up going to A&E, which is really not geared to supporting them or, worse, they try and cope alone. The community conversation event has been a really useful way of getting local people with an interest in mental health together to discuss the difference that the proposed changes could make”
A Jury member said, “This for me has not been a project or initiative, it is a way of life. Mental health affects me day in and day out as a carer and having experienced mental health services over the last 18 years, I wanted to take this unique opportunity to influence and change services for the better. Some of the stories we heard were quite harrowing and resonated with all of the jury members. I am now looking forward to staying involved with the CCGs as we work to make the changes.”
The process has been evaluated at every step by the University of Birmingham and their report will be published later this year.