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In brief: Care access in Scotland, MDMA success in PTSD, and more

An image of a woman on her phone entering a phone number
Priscilla Du Preez | Unsplash

News round-up by Conor D'Andrade

Access to mental health services ‘too slow and complicated’ in Scotland

A report by Audit Scotland has identified fragmentation and complexity in mental health services in the country.

The report notes that too many organisations are involved in funding, planning, and providing services, making it challenging for people to access counselling quickly and easily.

This complexity hampers accountability and creates barriers for disadvantaged groups, including those from ethnic minority backgrounds, rural areas, and impoverished communities.

Despite increased funding for mental health services since 2017, the Scottish Government lacks the data to measure its impact on improving people's health. For example, even with the increased funding, over 2,700 people had to wait more than a year to start psychological therapies in 2022/23.

The report also highlights that the government is not on track to meet its commitment of spending 10% of the NHS front-line budget on mental health by 2026.

Steve Mulligan, lead of Our Four Nations, said:

“It’s clear from the evidence presented by Audit Scotland that we need to see much more accessible and timely mental health support for people so we can address the growing need in Scotland, which has intensified since the pandemic.

"We know that increasing access to trained counsellors and psychotherapists across all spheres of the mental health workforce is the best way to support people who need help.”

Successful PTSD trial sees psychedelic drug move one step closer to clinical approval in the US

A second large US clinical trial of MDMA administered in conjunction with psychotherapy has demonstrated again that the drug is effective at treating PTSD in a range of people.

The results mean that the trial sponsor, non-profit the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), can now seek approval to use MDMA to treat the general public for PTSD, which could be as soon as next year.

Neurologist and lead researcher, Jennifer Mitchell, said that MDMA does not help by making the therapy process more “fun,” rather it induces a self-compassion that other therapies are unable to, which she describes as “a communication lubricant” that aids people with recalling and discussing traumatic events without experiencing shame or other intense negative emotions.

Mental health of seniors improved by engaging in hobbies

A recent study published in the journal Nature Medicine aimed to explore the relationship between engaging in hobbies and mental health among adults over 65.

The study analysed data from five longitudinal studies conducted in several countries, including England, Japan, the United States, China, and 12 European countries, with a combined dataset including responses from over 90,000 participants.

The study's findings revealed a consistent and positive association between engaging in hobbies and mental well-being among older adults.

Increased participation in hobbies was linked to reduced depressive symptoms and improved life satisfaction, happiness, and self-reported health, suggesting that pursuing hobbies can have a positive impact on the mental health and overall well-being of older individuals.

Mental health deaths in Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust care need a public inquiry

Calls for a full public inquiry into mental health deaths in Norfolk and Suffolk have received a significant boost.

The Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust is facing renewed scrutiny regarding the number of patients who have died while under its care, as well as allegations of a "watered-down" report on the issue.

Campaigners have long been advocating for a public inquiry into the trust's handling of patient deaths. Members of the Norfolk Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC), a cross-party body responsible for holding health officials accountable, have voted in support of launching such an inquiry.

If the public inquiry moves forward, it is expected to have the authority to compel evidence, similar to the ongoing inquiry into nurse Lucy Letby's murders at the Countess of Chester Hospital.

Yorkshire Ambulance Service hires specialist mental health paramedics

Yorkshire Ambulance Service (YAS) has introduced paramedics specialising in mental health, marking the first such initiative in the country.

The service, which deals with approximately 140 daily calls related to individuals in a mental health crisis, will also expand its dedicated mental health response vehicles from three to six.

In addition to this staffing enhancement, YAS has worked to establish safe spaces for individuals requiring emergency support in York and Sheffield.

The changes have been made with the aim to improve the service's ability to assist patients with mental health needs and help them within their communities, reducing unnecessary A&E visits.

Lead nurse in urgent care for the trust, Lesley Butterworth, said:

"We are delighted to implement this latest development in our programme to support people in mental health crisis.

"These exciting new advanced paramedic roles come ahead of recruitment to 15 specialist paramedic roles - a team that will help us provide the care and support people need, however they access our services."

Gambling addiction services launched by NHS in Bristol

Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust (AWP) have opened their inaugural specialised gambling addiction therapy hub in Bristol.

This marks the first of several hubs planned to address gambling addiction in the region, with additional centres slated to open in North Somerset, South Gloucestershire, and Plymouth by year-end.

The Bristol hub will provide various interventions, including cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), and is operated in collaboration with organisations such as Mental Health Matters, H2CD, Togetherall, Dr. Julian, and Intuitive Thinking Skills.

Clinical lead for AWP's South West Gambling Service, Chris Gilmore, said:

"Gambling disorder is a common mental health condition that has many negative effects on people's lives and we are pleased this has been recognised as a national and regional NHS priority.

"Patients are able to self-refer into the service directly, or via referral from a local healthcare professional - so anybody who thinks they may need support should get in touch."


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