Charity chief praises the changes made to mental-health services

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Patricia Winchester, chief executive of My Voice, made the comments during a press conference to update the public about the changes, but she said there was still a long way to go – citing the need for a new purpose-built facility.

She also made reference to how Orchard House – the Island’s dedicated mental-health inpatient unit – now had the highest rating under the Jersey Nursing Assessment and Accreditation System where previously it had had the lowest.

‘About a year ago I wrote a very strongly worded letter to the [Health] Minister complaining about how mental illness was under-invested in and that Orchard House was not fit for purpose,’ Ms Winchester said. ‘It was in my view, from working with mentally ill patients for the last 14 years at Orchard House, no longer safe or therapeutic.

‘The environment was very poor, the staffing levels were inadequate, there was insufficient training, there was very little care planning done in collaboration with patients and there was very little support either into or out of Orchard House.’

However, Ms Winchester said that things had now changed ‘dramatically’ with excellent staff morale, excellent patient feedback and the establishment of crisis prevention and intervention teams aimed at preventing Islanders from being admitted unnecessarily.

But she added: ‘Having said that, it is not perfect and we need the investment to build a new purpose-built unit – something that Orchard House is not – and hopefully that will happen by 2022.’

In a response to a freedom of information request, it was recently revealed that all inpatient wards at St Saviour’s Hospital were experiencing high levels of occupancy – with Orchard House sometimes being completely full.

However, Rob Sainsbury, group managing director for Health and Community Services, said the service did not require further investment.

‘It is not about the investment, we have got the investment. We need the model of care to change. We have done a lot to reduce the reliance on inpatient services in mental health. We now have the crisis intervention and prevention team and when we have a fully-fledged service that is operating 24-7 and when it is fully multi-professional and advanced then you will see that having an impact on our occupancy – we are getting there,’ he said.

Meanwhile, Assistant Health Minister Steve Pallett, who has responsibility for mental health, referred to how a home mental-health treatment service had been set up – allowing some Islanders to be treated without being admitted.

‘What that has been able to do almost immediately is support people back into the community so they do not break down and do not end up back at Orchard House,’ he said.

‘That has lowered the need for some bed space within Orchard House but other elements will need to be looked at.’

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