Health Minister Robin Swann has welcomed the launch of a new initiative to reduce waiting times and improve services for people who need secondary care mental health support.
The Steps to Wellness programme has been developed by the Southern Health Trust and East London Foundation Trust (ELFT), to provide greater levels of education and treatment for people experiencing common mental health problems.
Welcoming the service, the Health Minister said: “During the pandemic many local people have been experiencing mental health problems such as low mood, anxiety and distress due to the challenges of dealing with lockdowns, illness or loss. Like so many other services, our mental health staff are under immense pressure to meet this increasing demand. I am therefore pleased that this new initiative will enable patients to benefit from quicker access to evidence based and recovery focused treatment.”
Clinical Director for the programme David Walter explains that people may be offered a range of options: “We will be supporting people to make sense of their experiences, equipping them to manage these and providing skills to help them going forward. Options will include a programme of workshops, masterclasses, group work and one-to-one sessions. Some may require onward referral for more intensive mental health interventions.”
Local service users and carers along with community/voluntary sector organisations have been actively involved in the development of the programme. Karl Hughes, manager of the Mental Health Forum, said: “This is a huge boost for local people who are struggling with mental health symptoms. ELFT are renowned leaders in the field of mental health care and we’re working closely with them and the Southern Trust team to develop a service tailored to meet local need. Service user input is greatly valued which undoubtedly contributes to the very high levels of patient satisfaction with their London based service. We are committed to achieving the same standard of excellence here.”
Dr Maria O’Kane, Medical Director with the Southern Trust believes the new way of working will lead to long term positive changes within the Trust and across the wider region: “Our partners from the ELFT have extensive experience in providing Talking Therapy Services in London and Bedfordshire. They will be working alongside our own highly skilled staff to improve outcomes for our patients. As we go forward, we will be engaging with the other Trusts, so that any learning from this service can be shared for the benefit of mental health services regionally. We look forward to welcoming our first patients to the service this week.”
The SHSCT Adult Mental Health Service currently accepts referrals from GPs.