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Policy Watch

An eye on policy changes in Ireland, the UK and beyond

Access to Data | Access to GP Services | Impact of Covid-19 | New Research

Mental Health Rights  |  Fri Nov 05 2021

PPR highlighted the barriers activists have encountered in trying to get access to data about mental health services, with one blog that welcomed the Office for Statistics Regulation's highly critical Review of Mental Health Statistics in Northern Ireland and another that analysed its findings. (The monthly mental health statistics published by NHS England, for instance, can be accessed here.)

Sinn Féin MLA Órlaithí Flynn -- chair of the NI Assembly's All Party Group on Suicide Prevention -- reported the results of a party survey on access to GP services in which respondents said the inability to reach their GP by phone was a major concern. Elsewhere, press reports looked at a shortage of GPs in some areas of high need, such as West Belfast. This issue is particularly relevant in light of the Health Minister's response to a NI Assembly member's question on waiting times for primary level mental health care, in which he said that the new Mental Health Strategy involves "reorganising mental health services around the community, with an increased focus on our GPs".

NI families bereaved by suicide addressed the Executive Working Group on Mental Wellbeing, Resilience and Suicide Prevention through the Families Voices Forum.

With regard to the impact of Covid-19 on mental health, the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey for July - August 2021 revealed that around one in six adults in Great Britain experienced some form of depression in summer 2021, down from more than one in five in early 2021. (Pre-Covid-19 levels were reportedly around one in ten). Press sources reported a notable rise in England in mental health referrals for a person's first suspected episode of psychosis between April 2019 and April 2021, leading mental health charities to call for more resources for early intervention.

Meanwhile a global study, the findings of which were published in The Lancet, found evidence of a rise in the prevalence of depressive or anxiety disorders due to Covid that correlated with the areas hardest hit by the pandemic. Researchers observed, "the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic has created an environment where many determinants of poor mental health are exacerbated", and called for countries to urgently strengthen their mental health systems.

Other recent reports examined areas like the shortcomings of the existing paradigm that relies on diagnoses and frameworks and the impact of the growing use of online platforms to deliver mental health services (the digitalised Increased Access to Psychological Therapies model) on the effectiveness of the services and on the working lives of the people delivering them Numerous articles looked at the potential impact of the NHS bill in England on existing areas of concern, including the privatisation of services and use of data.  Another study highlighted the importance of learning from people's lived experience of housing insecurity for professions such as clinical psychology.

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