Welsh Assembly members stressed the need to improve access to talking therapies across Wales during a debate.

The opposition debate, led by the Welsh Conservatives, focused on the findings of a recent review of Community Mental Health Teams.

BACP briefed many of the politicians involved in the debate, stressing the importance of ensuring Community Mental Health Teams were better resourced to provide counsellors to urgently tackle growing need.

We were thanked by Conservative Assembly Member Darren Millar in his opening remarks.

Assembly Members from across the political sphere spoke passionately about their concerns about poor access to talking therapies and most called on the Government to urgently look at improving resources.

Minister for Health and Social Services Vaughan Gething responded to say that the Welsh Government was revising its delivery plan for its mental health strategy to tackle concerns about access.

He added that this will increase funding to improve the range of and access to psychological therapies across Wales, on top of £5.5 million that was made available during the past financial year.

Steve Mulligan, BACP’s Four Nations Policy and Engagement Lead, said:

“It was good to hear members from across the political spectrum passionately making the case for increased access to counselling.

We will keep the pressure on

"Access to talking therapies remains a significant urgent challenge in Wales. We were encouraged to hear the Government’s plans to increase investment and we will keep the pressure on to ensure they deliver on this promise”.

The debate was in response to a report by Healthcare Inspectorate Wales (HIW) and Care Inspectorate Wales (CIW). 

This revealed there was a variation in the availability and consistency of mental health teams in Wales and that many people find difficulties in accessing these services, particularly when they are in crisis.

Assembly Member Darren Millar told the debate: “It's clear that here in Wales there are too many people at the moment waiting for far too long for access to talking therapies.

“When people are referred to secondary care services for support, they need that support in a timely manner, and waiting, frankly, for two years before they get access to the treatment that they need is clearly not good enough.”

Assembly Member David Rees raised the issue of the resources available during the debate

He said: “I do know one of the big issues is about resource—we've been talking about talking therapies—it's about resource; sometimes, we haven't got the resources to do that. I accept that, but we need to start developing those resources.

Get people to deliver those services

"We haven't got enough, let's get them in place, let's do the training, let's get people to be able to deliver those services. We have to be in a position, as a nation, to support people with mental health illness to ensure that, as a community, they're not left vulnerable in their own homes.”

And Assembly Member Andrew Davies told the debate: “Talking therapies can be so helpful to people and actually keep them away from the acute sector, if they access the talking therapy in a timely manner.”

In his Government response, Mr Gething said there would be additional investment in mental health over the coming year.

He added: “That will include funding to increase the range of and access to psychological therapies, and that will build on the additional £5.5 million made available in the year just ended.

He added: “We are committed to delivering real and sustainable improvements in services, experience and outcome. And we'll do so as rapidly as possible, in maintaining the quality of care that each of us would expect.”

Members voted to approve a series of recommendations aiming to improve the support provided by and access to community mental health teams.

Read more about our Four Nations strategy.