Over 1,000 attend Derry A&E for mental health reasons - Colr.

Over 1,000 people presented at A&E in Derry with mental health problems over the 14 months to May 2021, a local Councillor has said.

Aontú Councillor Emmet Doyle was speaking as he described the new 10-year Mental Health Strategy for Northern Ireland as ‘without doubt the most important document published by the Department in some years’.

The Ballyarnett Councillor brought a motion to Derry and Strabane’s full council meeting calling for the NI Executive to fully fund the strategy and for the Department of Health and NI Office to progress the funding for a detox centre in Derry to complement it.

Colr. Doyle described the Strategy, if implemented in full as ‘a tool to turn the tide.’

Altnagelvin Hospital

He said: “I welcome that the Minister has also provided a funding plan for the strategy, it’s not just a clever tactic, it shows us in the cold light of day what is needed from the Executive to deliver fully on this transformational strategy. We need up to £290M for capital works and £750,000 in non-recurrent funding right now and recurrent resources of £1.2 billion over 10 years. That, to me, is the small end of the wedge when we put into context the effect it can have on society.

“One of the key asks of our working group in line with the Mental Health Champion, Professor O’Neill, was a new accessible crisis service. Personally, I am delighted to see that those of advanced years are now able to access statutory mental health services as well on a dedicated pathway to receive the care they need.

“From March 2020 until May this year, I am told over 1000 people presented themselves to A&E in Altnagelvin due to their mental state and it is hoped that the regional crisis service will reduce this and ensure that the hoop jumping that so many people have experienced to get help ends.”

Turning to the issue of detox provision in Derry, Councillor Doyle said: “The campaign is now in the end stages of producing a business case for the service aided by experts and professionals both in this council and other agencies. As part of that business case we have identified that the Asha Centre in Omagh for example, in relation to administration and nursing staff, costs is in the region of £590,000 per annum.

Aontu Colr. Emmet Doyle.

“We will soon send that case to party leaders, the Minister and Secretary for State in whose remit it is to fund the New Decade, New Approach commitment. This strategy and that provision are two sides of the same coin and must be delivered, simultaneously if possible.”

Sinn Fein Colr. Christopher Jackson seconded the proposal adding: “Any additional funding towards mental health must be welcomed. We all know the need that exists here in the North West and we need to see increased support for crisis services.”

SDLP Colr. Rory Farrell said that ‘drastic change is required to transform our mental health services.’

He added: “Too many people are suffering in silence and too many people aren’t getting the help they need.”

All parties supported the motion, which passed unanimously.

Gillian Anderson

Local Democracy Reporter