Julie and Grace with the NIHRC report

Mental health patients, carers and families bereaved through suicide have welcomed the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission’s support of their call for full implementation of a ‘vital’ scheme for people in mental health crisis at A&E.

The Belfast Mental Health Rights Group (BMHRG) was responding to the launch of the report from the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC)’s Inquiry into Emergency Care on Wednesday (27th May 2015).

Amongst the NIHRC Inquiry’s findings is that there were “inconsistencies” in the implementation of a “vital” appointment card scheme designed to provide a follow up appointment for those presenting at A&Es in mental health crisis.

The Card Before You Leave scheme was launched in January 2010 as a result of a campaign by mental health service users, carers and families who had lost loved ones to suicide and is operational across all A&Es in Northern Ireland. Since the scheme’s launch however, the BMHRG has encountered difficulties with the Health and Social Care Board’s monitoring system which has meant that crucial information about how the scheme is working is not being recorded.

Grace Cassidy, a member of the Belfast Mental Health Rights Group, said;

“The Card Before You Leave has the potential to be a ‘lifeline’ for someone in mental health crisis as it would keep them linked into services they needed. This has been reinforced by the NI Human Rights Commission’s report which says the scheme is ‘rightly lauded’. Despite this, key information about how it’s being operated in practice isn’t being supplied by the Health and Social Care Board, and we have been made aware through our own networks that it is not operating as it should, and as a result people in crisis are not getting the help they need.

Now that the Human Rights Commission has identified this as a problem too, our hope is that information on the numbers of people receiving Card Before You Leave, and attending for follow up will be supplied.”

The Inquiry report also highlights other issues which have been raised by Belfast Mental Health Rights Group, calling for waiting times at A&E for those experiencing mental health crisis to be made public, and a review of Adverse Incident mechanisms to allow staff to learn lessons from serious incidents.

Belfast based human rights organisation the Participation and Practice of Rights (PPR) which supports the Belfast Mental Health Rights Group also commented on the NIHRC report’s findings.

Kate Ward, Policy and Research Support Officer from PPR said;

“Since 2007 PPR has been working with mental health service users, carers and families impacted by suicide. Our work has shown that the participation of people impacted by services leads to better services and more efficient use of public money. Card Before You Leave is frequently cited as an example of this, however the group have always measured success by the impact it is having on the ground. It is therefore critical that the Health and Social Care Board produce the necessary data on the scheme’s implementation in order to address the group’s concerns.”