This pandemic probably won’t come to an end suddenly on one happy day when we can wave flags and ring the church bells. More likely it will go on at least in the background for many months or indefinitely.

I have a concern about that: just how long do we need to wait until normal service resumes?

Quite rightly we have all made allowances for what health and social care services can do for mental health patients while Covid-19 has kept them busy. We don’t want to make a fuss – although I was right behind Adferiad Recovery when they raised issues about the minimum level of support which should be available and about keeping patients and families informed during the most difficult times.

But there is a point at which we can’t go on making too many allowances when Covid becomes just one of a range of health issues rather than the overwhelming priority.

That time has come.

I’m not saying that the pandemic is no longer a significant commitment but it is time to raise our expectations of mental health services and hold them to account for the standards set down in law and policy. What do I mean by that?

Well, my particular concern is for people with a serious mental illness – that’s people who live in the shadow of the Mental Health Act. Their expectations should be:

  • Their Care and Treatment Plan is fully up-to-date, setting out all necessary treatment and support which mental health services and other agencies will provide
  • That treatment and support is being provided now – on time and reliably

I would encourage patients and families to consider whether that is the case and, if it isn’t, to ask politely but firmly for action to get it in place.

I have a lot of time for the front-line staff working in mental health services but they work in bureaucracies which don’t work effectively unless a lot of consumer pressure is applied. Trust me, things won’t improve unless we apply that pressure – and good staff and managers don’t mind the pressure if it is courteous and reasonable.

If you aren’t confident about asking services for action, or if you’ve tried and they are not responding, seek help from a local advocacy service or from Adferiad Recovery.

Jo Roberts is a mental health campaigner who was on the receiving end of the Mental Health Act for over 30 years. In the past she has received compulsory treatment; some of that treatment was deeply unpleasant and even terrifying. Jo is campaigning for a progressive Mental Health Act fit for the 21st Century – an Act that gives patients and carers in Wales and beyond a fairer deal. Read more…