Vulnerable mental health patients sent to “back of the queue”
Rhun ap Iorwerth MS, says it's "unacceptable" to discharge patients who still need help.
There are fears that mental health patients are being discharged from mental health support services due to pressures from the Coronavirus crisis.
A leaked letter, which was obtained by Plaid Cymru, shows a patient was discharged from local mental health support services in Flintshire because of the “Coronavirus situation”.
The letter says that patients have been advised to discuss re-referral with their GPs “once restrictions are lifted”.
Plaid Cymru Shadow Health Minister Rhun ap Iorwerth MS said it was “very worrying” doctors were being told to send vulnerable patients to the “back of the queue”.
Mr ap Iorwerth said that whilst delayed appointments would be understandable due to Covid-19, discharging patients receiving mental health support because of capacity issues was “unacceptable”.
The Shadow Health Minister said problems were building up with mental illnesses going untreated or undiagnosed because of the current crisis and that the Welsh Government should be looking at ways to “step up support” for those with mental health problems rather than being in a situation where Doctors were being told to discharge them.
Chief Officer of North Wales Community Health Council, Geoff Ryall-Harvey said the situation was “extremely concerning”.
Mr Ryall-Harvey said they saw “no reason” why patients with pre-existing mental health issues should be discharged and said that the number of patients approaching GPs with mental health problems was “increasing”.
Plaid Cymru Shadow Health Minister Rhun ap Iorwerth MS said:
"It is very worrying that Doctors were being told to send vulnerable patients with mental health problems to the back of the queue.
"We can all understand why services had to be changed to reflect COVID-19 pressures, and delayed appointments would be understandable. But to discharge a patient receiving mental health support, because of capacity problems, is clearly unacceptable.
"This clearly shouldn’t have happened and we need know why this message went out. We already know that problems are building up with physical illnesses going untreated or undiagnosed because of the current crisis. Well, the same goes for mental health. Government needs to be looking at ways to step up support for those with mental health problems. Instead, here we had Doctors being told to discharge them."
Chief Officer of North Wales Community Health Council, Geoff Ryall-Harvey said:
"Non-urgent primary care mental health services have been suspended on the advice of the Welsh Government, due to social distancing issues. This is understandable in the present circumstances. However, in North Wales, patients have been advised that they have been discharged from the service and that they should seek a re-referral to the service once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.
"This is extremely concerning. We see no reason why patients with pre-existing mental health issues should be discharged. At this time patients need professional support more than ever. We are informed by local GPs that the number of patients presenting to them with mental health problems is increasing and, post-COVID-19, could be problematical. This would leave long-term patients struggling to receive treatment as waiting lists increase considerably."