First Minister denies the need for improved mental health services for young people, despite only having 27 beds available across the country

Welsh Conservative Leader, Paul Davies AM, has asked the First Minister to make much-needed improvements to the limited mental healthcare provisions for young people across Wales.

Mr Davies used First Minister’s Questions today to ask Mark Drakeford if he thinks healthcare in Wales is meeting the needs of younger people.

He pressed the First Minister to answer serious concerns that there are only two Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service Centres open to young people in Wales, offering a total of just 27 beds. A third is currently taking patients from England after removing Welsh patients in July 2018.

Mr Davies said: “This limited capacity was raised back in 2013. And yet no progress has been made. Surely you agree with me First Minister that this is unacceptable and can you tell us what steps are you going to take to resolve this situation?”

The Welsh Labour Leader refused to acknowledge that there was a need for more bed space in Wales and instead pledged to back crisis care in Wales, despite his worst-performing health board at Betsi Cadwaladr, which services 23% of the population, not having any active crisis service.

Mr Davies also reminded his opponent of concerns around patient waiting times. A recent Health Inspectorate Wales report found that the “majority” of patients in Wales are waiting between four and 26 weeks for their mental health first appointment. 

Continuing his challenge, Paul Davies took the opportunity to reiterate his Group’s disapproval of Health Minister Vaughan Gething’s plans to dissolve Community Health Councils in favour of a Citizen’s Voice Body.

He said: “Do you think that now is the right time to be scrapping CHCs, which are trusted by patients,  and replacing them with a national Citizen Voice Body which might not feel they can be critical of the Welsh Government or the Health Boards as they will be appointed by you, funded by you and then won’t want to be sacked by you?”

First Minister Mark Drakeford’s inaccurate retort claimed that the Citizen Voice Body will be ‘entirely independent of Government’. Unlike the proposed new model, current Community Health Councils are comprised of two appointed officers joined by members of local authorities and voluntary organisations.

Speaking outside the chamber, Mr Davies added:

“We all know that there’s a mental health crisis, and it’s very unsettling to hear the First Minister so relaxed about the shortage of residential help available.

“Welsh people have a right to be treated in Wales, and when often in desperate situations it’s unforgivable that they should be left with waits of up to six months for treatment.

“The First Minister needs to carefully consider the impact that this Citizen Voice Body Council will have on healthcare users, to first allow the public to communicate concerns, including around mental healthcare, and secondly to make sure they’re listening.”