Angela Goodwin, Surrey Councillor for Guildford North, talks about her involvement in SCC mental health task group

October 20, 2020 3:11 PM

Angela Goodwin

"Angela Goodwin, Surrey Councillor for Guildford North, talks about her involvement in a Surrey County Council (SCC) mental health task group (MHTG) set up by its Adults & Health Select Committee to look at the patient's journey across Surrey.

Mental health. The 'cinderella' service within our health system; under-funded and under-resourced. That was my impression of our mental health services before I joined the task group and, to a certain extent, it still is today. But, whilst mental health has been so left behind by healthcare providers and Local Authorities (LAs), there is hope as we found out through our interviews this summer.

This cross-party group of councillors followed a 'bottom up' approach. All sessions took place online using Zoom or Microsoft Teams due to COVID-19. We listened to people with lived experience (face to face online), their carers, third sector organisations and charities who provided help and support in the community (Oakleaf, Richmond Fellowship, Mary Frances Trust, Catalyst, National Autistic Society, Action for Carers, Healthwatch Surrey, Community Connections to name but a few). We also offered a questionnaire for anyone wishing to provide input who didn't feel comfortable taking part online.

GPs, Surrey & Borders Partnership, Surrey Heartlands, SCC's Public Health, SCC's Adult Social Care, the Police and the Transport Police talked openly about their 'will to provide the best service they could' to help people and about the challenges they face.

It became clear to us all that mental health is complex; what doesn't help is that there are many providers offering some kind of help / support so it's difficult to know where to start your journey, or how to pick it up at a later date. Clearer signposting is much needed.

We heard that people living with mental ill health were having:

  • to repeat their story time and time again as systems don't talk to one another, and data sharing can be challenging
  • to live with the 'ping pong' effect ie being referred to different people, only to be told their condition doesn't meet the criteria for help & support. This often meant that people 'fell between two stools' and ended up with little or no support at all.

Another theme emerged through our various conversations; many people's mental ill health actually started when they were young and had followed through into adulthood. Unfortunately, the transition services often meant that they 'fell off a cliff edge' as the support didn't automatically follow through into the adults services.

Training was also raised on several occasions. We just need more of it so - including at councillor level - so more people can be sign posted and helped in some way.

There is light…

… in the form of GPIMS. This is a relatively new pilot that is being introduced across Surrey. It's a community mental health service designed to improve access to a wide range of specialist support.

The way it works is through extended appointments with mental health experts from the NHS, social care and specialist third sector organisations, plus access to therapies, physical health checks and pharmacists. Patients contact their GP to access this wider pool of expertise in their community under new ways of working. Early feedback from the professionals and people using it is very positive. Read more about GPIMS here.

The MHTG report

The task group's report, and its 20 recommendations, is quite a lengthy document. However, it is hoped that this is just the start of the conversation with further investigations and supporting data being looked in more detail by this Committee.

Read the Mental Health Task Group's report here.

Next steps

The Adults & Health Select Committee endorsed the report at its meeting on 15 October. It will then bediscussed at SCC's Cabinet meeting on 27 October; the actions for Surrey County Council will, hopefully, be approved at that stage. The report will also be shared with Surrey's Health & Wellbeing Board, NHS commissioners and providers and, of course, with everyone who took part. The recommended actions (and associated Action Plan) will be monitored and updates provided to the Adults & Health Select Committee, so we can see where improvements are being made.

GBC's Overview & Scrutiny Committee will also be setting up their own task group before the end of this year to look at mental health provision in the borough (specifically focussing on the 5-30 year old age group).

"I was honoured to be part of this task group. I recognise that we have a long way to go to have a 'good mental health service' across Surrey, but I have some comfort knowing that there are a plethora of people and organisations who do amazing work in our community to help people with mental ill health, and I am thankful for that. Angela"