Plans to introduce earlier support for people with mental health problems have been revealed by Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board.

The Health Board says its blueprint for an integrated network of new community support, which can be accessed without referral or an appointment, is part of a “whole system transformation” in how mental health support is delivered.

BCUHB’s new approach is based on the principles of its I CAN campaign, which aims to shift the focus of care to prevention and early intervention; empower people to take control of their mental health; and give a voice to people with mental health problems.

The I CAN Mental Health Urgent Care Centres have supported more than 1,000 people in crisis since being established in January 2019.

The Health Board aims to build on the successful introduction of I CAN Mental Health Urgent Care Centres, which support people in crisis who present at the Emergency Departments of North Wales’ three main hospitals.

Under the new plans, BCUHB’s existing Community Mental Health Teams and Home Treatment Teams will continue to support those with the greatest need.

A range of new support will be introduced below them which provides early intervention to prevent people from falling into crisis, and support closer to home for those who do.

This includes:

  • I CAN Community Hubs –which bring a range of organisations together to promote emotional health and wellbeing and provide emergency and crisis support to adults as a walk in service
  • I CAN Primary Care – providing more mental health support in GP surgeries
  • I CAN Mental Health Urgent Care Centres – supporting more people in crisis at Emergency Departments and on hospital wards
  • I CAN+ – providing 24 hour, high level support and working closely with secondary care mental health services. This is the only new service for which a referral is required.

This new approach is being led by BCUHB in partnership with local authorities, emergency services, mental health charities and people with lived experience of mental health problems as part of the wider transformation of mental health services outlined in the ambitious Together for Mental Health in North Wales strategy.

Three Local Implementation Teams covering Wrexham & Flintshire; Conwy & Denbighshire; and Gwynedd & Anglesey are working to establish this I CAN support at a local level.

Funding from the Welsh Government’s A Healthier Wales Transformation Fund has been awarded to turn these plans into reality.

Lesley Singleton, BCUHB’s Director of Partnerships, said: “We are determined to shift the focus of care to early intervention and prevention, so people receive the right support, in the right place, at the right time.

“Once fully established, we expect that more people will receive the early support they need in the community, leading to reduced waiting times and improved outcomes for people who require the specialist support of our mental health services.

“This is an important element in the whole system transformation of mental health care across North Wales and it will require close working with our partner organisations, the third sector, and people with lived experience of mental health problems.

We need the energy, ideas and enthusiasm of people across North Wales to help shape how we take this forward. I want to encourage anybody with an interest in getting involved to please contact us at ican@wales.nhs.uk.

The plans have been welcomed by Alun Thomas, Chief Executive of leading Welsh charity Hafal. He said: “Hafal is delighted to see the ongoing development of mental health services by Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board. We welcome this new approach where those people who are best supported by a partnership between the NHS and other community partners are able to receive services without having to enter specialist mental health services.

“There are a wide range of resources available across North Wales including those in leisure, education and social activities where, with the appropriate support, people may find positive ways to address mental health issues which in turn will release specialist mental health resources for those individuals who require the most intensive levels of support.

“We look forward to the I CAN Community Hubs offering local, responsive services across North Wales.”

Photo: I CAN volunteers Louise, Sharon and Dylan outside the Emergency Dept at Ysbyty Gwynedd.