Posted: Thu 21st May 2020

Fears raised as mental health patients in North Wales are discharged due to coronavirus situation

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Thursday, May 21st, 2020

Fears have been raised that mental health patients in North Wales are being discharged from support services due to pressures from the COVID-19 crisis.

A leaked letter, which was obtained by Plaid Cymru, shows a patient was released from local mental health services in Flintshire because of the coronavirus situation.

The letter says that patients have been advised to discuss re-referral with their GPs once restrictions are lifted.

Plaid Cymru Shadow Health Minister Rhun ap Iorwerth MS said it was “very worrying” doctors were being told to send vulnerable patients to the back of the queue, describing the situation as “unacceptable”.

He has now called on the Welsh Government to look at ways to increase support.

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board said it would be contacting all recently discharged patients to review the level of help they need.

Mr ap Iorwerth said: “We can all understand why services had to be changed to reflect COVID-19 pressures, and delayed appointments would be understandable.

“But to discharge a patient receiving mental health support, because of capacity problems, is clearly unacceptable.

“This clearly shouldn’t have happened and we need know why this message went out. We already know that problems are building up with physical illnesses going untreated or undiagnosed because of the current crisis.

“Well, the same goes for mental health. government needs to be looking at ways to step up support for those with mental health problems. Instead, here we had doctors being told to discharge them.”

Chief Officer of North Wales Community Health Council, Geoff Ryall-Harvey, said the situation was “extremely concerning”.

He said he saw “no reason” why patients with pre-existing mental health issues should be discharged.

Mr Ryall-Harvey said: “Non-urgent primary care mental health services have been suspended on the advice of the Welsh Government, due to social distancing issues.

“This is understandable in the present circumstances. However, in North Wales, patients have been advised that they have been discharged from the service and that they should seek a re-referral to the service once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.

“This is extremely concerning. We see no reason why patients with pre-existing mental health issues should be discharged. At this time patients need professional support more than ever.

“We are informed by local GPs that the number of patients presenting to them with mental health problems is increasing and, post-COVID-19, could be problematical. This would leave long-term patients struggling to receive treatment as waiting lists increase considerably.”

Simon Dean, Interim Chief Executive of Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, said: “We 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.”

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