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Monday, August 10, 2009

Good mental health

Last week I spent a very interesting day with Mental Health Social Workers in the City and County of Swansea learning more about the work that they do and the excellent service they provide in conjunction with the local Health Trust.

The team is a fully integrated one with mental health nurses and other professionals working alongside social workers on a common caseload. There are officers based in the Police Station and the courts to provide assessments and to take referrals, whilst duty officers take regular self-referrals or calls from friends and relatives asking them to consider the well-being of somebody they believe to be in need of help.

I sat in on a team meeting as well as a case review and visited a number of establishments around the City including a residential home in Mumbles that offers short and long term beds as well as respite care.

I also travelled up to Create in Manselton, where patients are rehabilitated back into the community by working on a number of projects. There is a landscaping business there, a catering business, a project that works with digital photographs and also one which builds computers from scratch for sale to the Council and other customers. The building also has a fully equipped training suite that is available for hire.

The Cwmbwrla Day Centre nearby is fairly similar with a range of therapeutic activities on offer to users including dry-stone walling and arts and crafts.

I finished off my day with a visit to the Orchard Clinic in the City Centre where I was given a tour of the facilities and also had an interesting discussion about the under-resourcing of treatment for eating disorders. This is one issue that I intend to take back to the Assembly with me when we resume after the summer recess. Despite the very good work by Bethan Jenkins on this and the £2 million put into the service by the Health Minister, there is still not enough resource to employ the dietitians that are needed.

The other issue I will be asking the Minister about is the lack of emphasis on mental health in primary care. If we are going to adopt the recovery model in which patients are helped to overcome their health issues whilst being rehabilitated in the community then GPs need to employ some mental health expertise to work with them in their health centres. At present they largely act as a referral point passing on patients to hospitals and other health professionals working in secondary care. That needs to change.

The overall impression that I came away with from my day was of a cohort of hard-working and dedicated professionals with a genuine interest in and concern for the welfare of their clients. Clearly, the demand on their time is immense and I am grateful that they were able to accommodate me for a day so that I could see for myself the work that they do and get a better understanding of the enormously complex and difficult field that they work in.
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