North West Wales

Conwy mental health improvements 'too slow'

Betsi Cadwaladr health board sign
Image caption Conwy council has been working with the health board to improve mental health services

Councillors have decided not to pull out of a deal with a health board despite mounting concerns over community mental health services.

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB) was brought in to help turnaround aspects of mental health care in Conwy.

According to a Conwy council report, progress has been slow, with health board issues blamed.

However the cabinet heard there had been changes in recent weeks.

At a meeting on Tuesday Conwy's cabinet decided not to pull staff out of working with BCUHB despite frustration over a lack of progress to address issues.

A report to the meeting had said "cultural, managerial and leadership" issues at BCUHB had been "impeding satisfactory progress" in community mental health services.

But at the meeting Tesni Hadwin, the council's service manager for vulnerable people, said that weekly meetings were now in place and BCUHB had experienced a "reality check".

She said: "Three weeks is not a long time but we have seen some changes on the ground."

The council's register of risks put before the cabinet added: "Services do not meet standards we would aspire to, service users are not supported adequately, posing a risk to their health and wellbeing."

The focus of community care in Conwy is based at the Roslin centre in Llandudno and the Nant y Glyn site in Colwyn Bay.

Mental health services there are provided by community psychiatric nurses, social workers, psychologists, occupational therapists and psychiatrists.

'Serious safety concerns'

The local authority agreed to work more closely with the health board after a series of reviews raised serious concerns.

Issues included a spike in suicides between 2012 and 2014, and further "serious safety concerns" raised in October 2016.

An external consultant was brought in by BCUHB and a new structure for community mental health services was agreed by the council last summer.

However, the authority said the new plan had been put "on hold" while BCUHB considered wider mental health reorganisations.

The report to the council cabinet also said the programme of improvements had "faltered" after a senior member at BCUHB went on long-term sick leave.

Concerns flagged by Conwy council echo recent statements from health watchdogs and the Welsh Government.

Image caption The BCUHB was placed in special measures after a damning report into patient treatment at the Tawel Fan mental health ward

Health Secretary Vaughan Gething told the health board two weeks ago it needed to focus "urgent" attention on mental health services.

The council leadership had been asked to consider a number of options in response - including "terminating" current arrangements with the health board.

It would have meant that staff no longer worked with BCUHB as part of an integrated community mental health team.

Instead, social care mental health responsibilities would have been brought back under the control of Conwy council.

"The organisational challenges within BCUHB are inhibiting progress," noted the report.

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