The Welsh Assembly Government’s Response to the Health and Social Services Committee’s Report Review of the National Service Framework for Mental Health—Standard 2: User and Carer Participation
In October 2005, the Health and Social Services Committee published its review of the mental health national service framework standard 2, which relates to service user and carer participation in planning and delivering mental health services.
As part of the review, the committee consulted with mental health service users and carers as well as with service providers and commissioners. It particularly wanted to receive evidence on what ‘full’ and ‘genuine’ participation means to people and to organisations, and it asked what barriers there are and how these barriers can be overcome.
The committee has made 12 recommendations, all of which I have accepted in full or in part, and my detailed response to each of these recommendations was given in a written statement, which I made to Assembly Members on 6 December 2005.
I thank the Health and Social Services Committee for highlighting the important issue of how best to ensure that people who use our mental health services are fully involved in how those services are planned and delivered, and have a genuine voice in shaping and improving services across Wales.
The report highlights many excellent examples of good practice that are already taking place throughout Wales, and I will ensure that these are widely promoted across services. During the committee’s public consultation on user and carer involvement, the Assembly Government published ‘Stronger in Partnership’. This sets out to provide advice and information on how effectively to involve people who use mental health services and their carers in the design, planning, delivery and evaluation of these services. The guidance states clearly our view that service user and carer involvement is not a one-off intervention or a discrete piece of work, but a far broader and more empowering way of working, which should be an integral part of every aspect of mental health design, commissioning and provision.
I am pleased that the committee has commended ‘Stronger in Partnership’ as a comprehensive and practical tool for service providers, users and carers, and it has taken the view that the implementation of the guidance will enhance the health and quality of care for both service users and carers.
The committee made recommendations about improving training for statutory services, the appointment of user involvement development officers, improvements to care planning arrangements and ensuring that children and young people are treated in an appropriate environment, all of which I fully support. I have fully accepted 10 of the committee’s recommendations and accepted two in part, both of which I believe require further work by Assembly Government officials.
Recommendation 10 is that service users should be involved in the recruitment of staff at all levels. I accept the principle of this recommendation and will give it further detailed consideration.
A successful pilot project was carried out across north Glamorgan and Pontypridd and Rhondda NHS trusts to develop service user involvement in the recruitment of mental health nurses. We need to have further discussions with human resource specialists and to have wider consultation before considering whether to make this a mandatory requirement.
Recommendation 12 is about an award scheme to be considered, which would celebrate and publicise cases in which people have successfully overcome mental illness. I have asked the Assembly’s public health improvement division to consider this idea in detail as part of its wider mental health promotion action plan, which is being developed.
For too long, mental health services throughout Wales have not received the attention that they deserve. In October last year, three separate mental health reports commissioned by the Assembly Government were published, highlighting the fact that there is still much work to be done to improve mental health services across Wales. We have taken on board the issues raised in these reports in the revised mental health national service framework and action plan that we published on World Mental Health Day in October.
The Wales Audit Office’s detailed and comprehensive baseline review found that in many parts of Wales there has been positive progress in encouraging genuine service user and carer participation. However, it also pointed out that the picture across Wales is variable and that good practice needs to be more widely spread. We will ensure that this happens.
Service users are experts in their own experience, and they have a good knowledge of mental health services and of living with a mental health condition. No matter how well trained or well qualified someone else is, they cannot have the same experience of the onset of mental illness and the same journey through the mental health system. Service user and carer groups have a unique body of knowledge, and it is important that service providers and commissioners use this knowledge and work with users and carers to develop and improve services.
The committee’s report makes an important contribution to our plans to raise the standards of mental health services and to give people with mental health problems the service to which they are entitled.