Almost 1,700 mental health patients were wrongly discharged from support services at a Welsh health board during the coronavirus pandemic, it has been revealed.
It has prompted calls for an 'immediate rebuild' of mental health services at Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board with some describing the revelation as "deeply distressing."
Plaid Cymru Shadow Health Minister Rhun ap Iorwerth MS said: “One patient being discharged before time is one patient too many. To now learn that 1,694 patients were discharged early, while they still needed support from mental health services, is a deeply distressing."
Mr Iorwerth added: “I think it’s clear that immediate investment is needed in rebuilding mental health services.”
The north Wales health board has been in Welsh Government special measures since 2015 - it was a scandal over mental health services that prompted the move.
The Welsh Government says the health board's decision to discharge mental health patients during the pandemic was not in line with its guidance.
The Welsh Government said: “Mental health services are essential during the pandemic. While the way they’re delivered might change because of the current restrictions, we expect health boards to maintain services.
“We are aware of correspondence discharging patients from Local Primary Mental Health Services in north Wales during the pandemic. Although they were provided details for contacting crisis services, this is not in line with our guidance. The health board has assured us that all patients affected will be contacted by their local service.”
Welsh Conservative Senedd Member for Clwyd West, Darren Millar, demanded an apology from the health board and said: “While I recognise the pressures that the coronavirus pandemic has placed on the NHS, I am extremely concerned that vulnerable people who were referred into mental health services have been treated in this way, especially at a time when the Board’s mental health services are subject to special measures by the Welsh Government."
The health board has apologised for the error.
Simon Dean, Interim Chief Executive of the health board, said: “I would like to reassure people that Primary Mental Health Care Services are receiving referrals as normal.
“We will also be contacting all recently discharged patients to review the level of support they may need. I would like to say how sorry I am for any distress that may have been caused.”