An investigation into Camden’s mental health services was ordered by the Town Hall after the death of Jeffrey Mann, who took his own life last year after being told he could no longer attend the Highgate Day Centre
Published: 22 July, 2016
by TOM FOOT
A NEW investigation has revealed startling concerns raised about Camden’s mental health service by patients and staff.
Councillors will next week discuss a report compiled with the help of focus groups speaking under the protection of anonymity.
It was ordered as the Town Hall set up a “scrutiny panel” to investigate the effectiveness of mental health services and follows the death of Jeffrey Mann, who took his own life after being told he could no longer attend the Highgate Day Centre.
The feedback reveals concerns over how patients are routinely left untreated until their problems escalate to a full-blown crisis and an over-reliance on mind-numbing anti-psychotic medication in secure units. Staff, meanwhile, spoke of being stretched by funding cuts.
One patient responding to the survey said: “I think they should consider it [waiting times to access treatment] seriously because there’s been a lot of people over the years who have waited to see a psychiatrist. By the time they’ve seen them they could be dead, or a hell of a lot worse by then.”
Another added: “Patients are discharged due to overload or bad management. Then they are back in the system within months, after being sectioned or hospitalised. Unqualified staff are undertaking professionals’ roles”.
The report said “earlier access” to services was a key area that “required improvement ... to prevent mental health conditions escalating to crisis”.
The report added: “One of the reasons for heightened stress levels as suggested by participants in this engagement and indicative in the staff surveys was due to a lack of resources which included staffing levels, bed pressures, finances and long waiting times.”
The Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust (C&I) has faced some of the largest cutbacks of all health authorities from the government’s austerity budgets. In Camden, it is estimated that more than 35,000 adults have a “common mental health problem” like depression or anxiety, and the borough has the third highest-rated serious mental illness in the country.
C&I said: “We welcome external and independent surveys about how our service-users experience their care and treatment and made Camden’s survey accessible from our own website.”
TEENAGERS’ stress levels are to be monitored in school for the first time as part of a new drive to stop mental health problems developing at an early age.
The “biofeedback” equipment is being installed in all primary and secondary schools to help “control the way their bodies deal with stress” and “recognise young people that are feeling heightened levels of stress and anxiety”.
The council says funding is being made available to “purchase the equipment necessary” and to “embed this within the programme at schools” in a pilot in secondary schools starting this September.
The £40,000 equipment – which takes computer readings from wires attached to children’s earlobes – is expected to be used on 20 children in each school.
Teenage stress expert Nicola Morgan, an education consultant who has written several books on teenagers stress levels, told the New Journal: “What is good about this programme is its motivation. If you learn stress management early on, those techniques are the same for you all the way through your life. But there are also very simple things that schools can do; the best value would be if teachers knew the simple theories around stress and stress management.”
The £750,000 “Healthy Minds” programme is co-funded by the council and the Camden Clinical Commissioning Group and Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust.
Council leader Sarah Hayward said: “Our fresh and comprehensive approach proves we are committed to treating all mental health issues, and to making Camden a place where everyone has the chance to succeed and no one gets left behind.”