The Gibraltar Mental Welfare Society Voices Concerns

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A PR from the society reads as follows:

It is now just over three months since the Gibraltar National Mental Health Strategy was introduced. While The Gibraltar Mental Welfare Society is well aware that this is a 5-year strategy and knows that we can only hope to see the complete benefits of the new policies in the fullness of time, it finds it extremely worrying to see further deterioration in the mental health provision being offered to the community at this time.

Although it is true that when you call 111, there is somebody at the end of the line and some kind of triage takes place, it continues to be very difficult for people to get appointments with a psychologist or a psychiatrist. Moreover, if service users do manage to get an appointment, these are often cancelled, repeatedly. This is a completely unacceptable state of affairs.

The reason why this is happening is that the complement of these professionals is lower than it has been for a long time now and the system is functioning very poorly. Instead of seeing an appropriate specialist, some service users are being given appointments to see one of the Approved Mental Health Practitioners. Although in some cases the patient might get what they need from these professionals, in many cases they will not. It is not right for an AMHP to be expected to step in when what is required are the services of a specialist, and it is certainly not right for a service user to be seen by anybody other than a specialist when this is what is required.

We have also been approached by parents who are desperate to get appointments for their children to see a psychiatrist/psychologist and finding it impossible to do so. The GHA has recently advertised for two posts: that of a consultant psychiatrist and that of a psychologist specialising in children and adolescents We hope those roles will be filled as soon as possible because these services are urgently needed. But even when the posts are filled, it will not be enough to ensure that service users can access the necessary help within an acceptable time frame. 

We live in a society where an increasing number of people require support for mental health problems. The GMWS strongly believes that there has to be much greater investment in the system at all levels, from preventative measures to therapeutic care. Apart from more psychiatrists, we need the service of a consultant psychologist who will be the lead in the psychology service, and other psychologists with a variety of specialisms. Over and above this, we need accredited counsellors and therapists who can offer essential support through talking therapies.

A question that is central to mental health provision in Gibraltar is why so many good professionals are lost to the system through what appears to be a combination of inadequate support structures in the work environment, and very poor managerial decisions. Lack of continuity of care has always been one of the main complaints regarding mental health provision so it should be a priority of those in authority to do all in their means to retain the best professionals in their employment rather than lose them carelessly, time and time again, whether through resignations or non renewal of contracts. There is something clearly wrong in a system which does this. There needs to be reformation from the core if we are ever going to achieve the “seamless, well-coordinated service” which the document speaks about, and which is still very far from reality.

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