Call for promises made to family to be kept

The Belfast Mental Health Rights Group has expressed its concern about continuing failures in mental health services at Belfast Trust.

The group participated in monitoring visits to selected A&Es in the summer of 2015 organised by the Public Health Agency. According to their report, the PHA stated the reasons for their visit was to review how the Card Before You Leave Scheme was being implemented in response to concerns been raised by the Belfast Mental Health Rights Group and difficulty in interpreting existing data on the scheme.

The report confirmed the patchy implementation of a number of changes that had been promised.  Examples include:-

  • the inconsistent provision of duplicate ‘card before you leave’ appointment cards for carers as recommended in the HSCB Evaluation of CBYL in 2012
  • key information for carers such as that provided in a Family Guide: ‘Caring for Someone who has Self harmed or has Suicidal Thoughts’ not being effectively distributed.
  • delays in sectioning a patient under the Mental Health Order. The report confirmed “that there are often significant delays in accessing a GP to carry out this assessment”

Julie Magee a member of BMHRG was particularly concerned about this issue saying:

“The confirmation that lengthy delays exist to be sectioned under the MHO directly contradicts written assurances we received from both the Belfast Trust and RQIA that changes had been made to remedy this problem. My brother took his own life in 2011 having left hospital after several hours waiting to be sectioned. I had heard from a number of families that there were still delays but the Belfast Trust and RQIA told me in writing that there were not aware of any issues, I am so disappointed and angry. Do the Belfast Trust and RQIA really know what is going on in their hospitals?  The system failed my brother – it is still failing me and families now going through the system with their loved ones’

‘My disappointment is made worse because I fought long and hard at a very difficult time to be meaningfully involved in the Serious Adverse Incident Review following my brother’s death and to ensure recommendations from the Review were effectively implemented. How am I and other family members being treated with respect when they can’t even tell me the truth about ongoing problems with potentially life threatening delays? Why is it taking so long for the Trust to keep its promises?’

The failure to provide the ‘Family Guide’ publication which explains what should happen when you go to  A&E or GPs for mental health care is also a disappointment.  So too is the lack of consistency in providing a duplicate ‘card before you leave’ appointment card for carers. Why is there such disparity between what carers are telling us and promised actions by government?

Surveys carried out by the group supported by PPR in 2015 found that 10 out of 10 people caring for someone with mental health problems state that they do not get enough information to help them support their loved ones.

Stephanie Green, PPR Development Worker said: “As a member of BMHRG once put it during the Card Before You Leave Campaign – ‘promises can be made – but promises can be broken’ – and this report confirms this is still unfortunately the case today. Mental Health services in Northern Ireland face huge struggles on a number of fronts including a smaller percentage of the health budget going in to mental health services than the rest of the UK and mental health still not being treated on an equal footing as physical health issues. The cracks in the system have been showing for some time.  It’s time to ensure changes promised are actually implemented in a timely fashion.”