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Five year strategy seeks to address Somerset’s rising tide of mental ill health

By jspiteri  |  Posted: February 10, 2014


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Doctors in Somerset are inviting the public to share their views on how best to address the ever growing levels of stress, depression and anxiety which blight peoples’ lives and result in a growing number of people developing serious mental ill health.

An estimated one in six people in Somerset (70,000 people) potentially have a mental health problem. The stigma associated with mental ill health frequently prevents people discussing their problems with friends and family and delays many from visiting their GP for advice.

As a consequence GPs and mental health experts know there is a very substantial level of unmet need with people sometimes suffering in silence for years.

Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group’s consultation document, called the “Joint Mental Health and Wellbeing Five Year Strategy”, asks patients and the public to consider the following service priority areas and say where they think extra investment should go:

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1. Tackling stigma and discrimination

Should more be done to make people aware of mental health stigma? This might include encouraging employers to be sympathetic to job applicants who have experienced mental health issues in the past. Should this include more training and awareness-raising for staff in schools, hospitals and local communities?

2. Prevention and early intervention

Should there be more early intervention in peoples’ lives to reduce the risk of mental health conditions? This may mean changing the current thresholds for access to mental services but it could pay dividends in the longer term as less people go on to develop serious and enduring mental health problems.

3. Access to Talking Therapies

Talking therapies have helped a great many people with common mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. Should such services be expanded and extended to include children and young people?

4. Mental health and substance misuse

Should more be done to help people with substance misuse and mental health problems?

5. More engagement and participation

Could more be done to improve engagement with mental health service users and carers in the planning and commissioning of local health services? Should a mental health network or forum be created?

6. Improve physical and mental health

Can we do more to support people with physical health problems to manage their condition? People with long-term physical health conditions may become depressed or anxious. Could we increase access to psychological support?

7. Acute Mental Health Liaison

We plan to review the hospital liaison services in Somerset with the aim of looking at alternative models and evaluating whether it is suitable for local commissioning requirements. One example could be to improve liaison provision for people in general hospital beds with medically unexplained symptoms.

8. Primary Care Mental Health Liaison

As GPs become better able to commission and influence the commissioning of services, we need to evaluate whether this element of work needs to be re-commissioned to ensure that GPs receive the best levels of advice and support when managing people with mental health needs in the GP surgery.

9. Children and young people

We want to do more to target support and treatment, at an early stage, to those young people at risk of developing enduring mental health problems. We want to increase help to families and carers and help young people with conditions like eating disorders, cancer and diabetes. We also want to help improve cross-agency working for young people with complex behavioural problems who may be at risk of self-harm or suicide.

10. Families and carers

Mental health problems don't just affect the individual they also affect their carer and family members. Should we do more to support families and carers by expanding the dedicated carer assessment worker posts in Somerset for the families and carers of young people?

11. Equality of access

Somerset is largely rural with some socially deprived areas. Should we be ensuring there is equal access to services irrespective of where you live? For instance, people with learning disabilities should not be excluded from services on account of their level of functioning. People with autism also require reasonable adjustments to services to ensure they have effective support and treatment.

Inviting patients, carers and the public to share their views of the five year strategy, Dr David Rooke, Chairman of Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Somerset’s family doctors have seen a growing rise in the numbers of patients experiencing common mental health problems, such as depression or anxiety. We are also seeing more patients who need onward referral to specialist services and who suffer from severe and enduring mental health problems such as schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder. It is also frustrating that many patients still delay seeking professional support because of the stigma associated with mental health problems.”

Dr Rooke added: “The development of talking therapies in recent years is helping many more patients with mental health problems, but we want to address the issue of mental ill health in a more integrated way, with more emphasis on prevention and early diagnosis – particularly for children and the young and provide more personal support to people who might be living with long term illness.

“Often this is best done in collaboration with colleagues in the local authority who can ensure that people receive help with such things as housing and employment support or training in managing their condition. Public Health initiatives also have an important role to play in addressing the wider issue of preventing ill health by improving mental wellbeing.”

Copies of the Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group’s consultation document, the Joint Mental Health and Wellbeing Five Year Strategy, are available from their web site at:


Members of the public can also complete an on-line survey at: www.surveymonkey.com/s/Somerset_Joint_Mental_Health_and_Wellbeing_Strategy_Consultation

Or e mail their views on the strategy to: mentalhealth@somersetccg.nhs.uk

Copies of the strategy are also available by writing to:

Mental Health Consultation,


NHS Somerset CCG,

Wynford House,

Lufton Way,


Somerset, BA22 8HR

Comments and feedback should be submitted to Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group by Friday 11th April 2014.

A number of open meetings are also being held.

The next meeting takes place on Thursday 13th February, 1.30pm at South Somerset Mind, The Markwick Centre, Dampier Street, Yeovil. BA21 4EN. Tel 01935 474875.

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