Healthwatch Dorset has today published a new report about young people’s experiences of mental health services in Dorset, to inform the ongoing development of services in the county.

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, Healthwatch Dorset visited youth groups and local organisations across Bournemouth, Poole and Dorset.  They talked to young people who don’t always have a strong voice, including those excluded from school, young offenders, care leavers, young asylum seekers and young people who are experiencing homelessness.

Healthwatch Dorset has shared its new report, Your Mind, Your Say: Young people’s views of mental health services in Dorset, with the Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).  It has made the following recommendations to help shape the development of mental health services for children and young people:

  • The most common concern raised was the amount of time that young people have to wait to access services; they would like to see much shorter waiting times.  ‘Get to know you’ telephone sessions might be beneficial prior to one-to-one sessions, and this may help to alleviate the amount of time that young people have to wait.
  • Several young people said that the setting in which they have their sessions is too clinical and makes them feel uncomfortable.  They would prefer an environment where they are comfortable and feel safe.
  • Many young people said that the support workers they see are constantly changing which slows down the care  they receive.  They would like to see the same support worker, who they are familiar with.  “It’s frustrating when your psychiatrists, doctors and mental health workers are constantly changing.  I went through three care co-ordinators in six months and it really slows down progress because I feel like I am repeating myself over and over again and opening up my trauma.”
  • Young people were frustrated about the limited number of sessions they are given.  They felt that it takes time to feel comfortable talking to a support worker, and by the time they do feel comfortable they only have one or two sessions left.  They would like to have an option to extend the amount of sessions.  “The rigidness of only having six sessions is not very good.  You’re put in a room at a certain time, told you’ve got 45 minutes to open up about everything and then you are expected to go back to school.”

Healthwatch’s Dorset’s findings have fed into Dorset CCG’s Your Mind, Your Say project, launched in February 2020, to capture the views of young people and their families who use mental health services.  The CCG has now published a summary of the prominent feedback themes on their website: dorsetccg.nhs.uk/ymys-one-page-summary/, pending their full report.  Healthwatch Dorset will launch their own Young Listeners project later in the year to further develop their work in this area.

Louise Bate, Healthwatch Dorset Manager said: “Last year, 17% of all enquiries to Healthwatch Dorset were about mental health services and this continues to be a common area of concern and complaint.  There is a huge demand for services and, with coronavirus and social isolation widely reported to be impacting on people’s mental health, demand for support looks set to grow, particularly for young people.  We are making sure that Dorset’s mental health services listen and respond to public feedback.”

Elaine Hurll, Principal Programme Lead for Mental Health at Dorset CCG said: “It was great to receive the report and recommendations from Healthwatch Dorset and we are grateful to those who shared their views.  The views, thoughts and suggestions are very much in line with those provided through our online survey and group discussions.  We will make sure that these recommendations are given due consideration by the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Steering Group.  Importantly, all views collected will be used to inform future service plans, which we will design with young people, their families and other stakeholders.”

View the full report:

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