Mental health services in Bath and North East Somerset 'insufficient' at meeting needs

Picture of the Pulteney Bridge over the River Avon, Bath

Mental health services in Bath and North East Somerset are “insufficient” at meeting people’s needs, a health watchdog has said.

The criticism came in a report by Healthwatch which looked into the service during the pandemic in Bath and North East Somerset together with Swindon and Wiltshire.

The report included the views of people who had been consulted, many of whom praised voluntary organisations in the area, but had more negative experiences with the health and care services.

The report said that more training and support was needed, particularly in trauma, eating disorders, and children’s services.

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One of the main issues was that people felt it was too difficult to access services. One person told the survey: “People go from one crisis to the next. [You] can only get in hospital now if you’re sectioned.”

A person with complex PTSD said that they had been “re-traumatised” by their experience.

They said: “Now I’m planning an assisted suicide at Dignitas because it is easier to get an assisted suicide on a bureaucratic level than to get help from [Bath and North East Somerset] services”

The report said there was “an urgent need for more trauma informed services.”

Breakthrough, which provides specialist trauma therapy in Twerton, reported a doubling in referrals in 2021 compared to 2020.

Meanwhile, Julian House, which provides outreach for people homeless in Bath, said that everyone in their Manvers Street hostel required support for underlying trauma.

Bath Carer’s Centre said carers’ mental health had suffered during the pandemic, and that 2021 had been even worse than 2020.

The report stated: “A number of carers reported being traumatised by the experience of caring during the pandemic when support services were reduced, schools shut down, and having reduced family support.”

Several people told the survey there was a lack of services for eating disorders, and that support for this was better at Southmead Hospital in Bristol than at Bath’s Royal United Hospital.

One survey respondent said: “The RUH needs to be more geared towards eating disorder provision. Essentially the Bath area should have an eating disorder unit and outpatients service.”

The Healthwatch report also highlighted the findings of a recent Youth Connect South West report which raised the need to signpost services for children and young people so they know what they can access.

The report was delivered to Bath and North East Somerset’s Health and Wellbeing board on January 24.

Dine Romero, the chair of the board and the council’s cabinet member for children, young people, and communities, said: “The board welcomed this report which highlighted in particular the experience of people using mental health services during the Covid pandemic.

“We recognised that mental health partners for this area need to work together to improve people’s experience of those using mental health services. We have asked for further updates on mental health provision for a future Health & Wellbeing board meeting.”

Details about about accessing mental health advice and support in Bath and North East Somerset can be found here.

Credit: John Wimperis, Local Democracy Reporting Service