Thanet mental health services update

Our public meeting on mental health last week in Ramsgate was attended by over 100 people. Thank you to those who came along to The Comfort Inn. Our politicians and decision makers need to be held to account and should take more action. They need to fight with you and for you, for the health services we rely on. No ifs, no buts. No excuses. We need dramatic improvements to stop the unnecessary suffering and to build better support across our community.

Further mental health public meetings

As your County Councillor I’ve already set up further meetings to push for change for the better. We need to give everyone the opportunity to put their questions and to get answers. Improvements are long overdue.

Action is being taken with the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG). We’ll be holding a series of meetings on individual topics starting in September and we’ll be bringing together a range of providers in the voluntary sector to talk about how to build better services.

It’s time for action on Thanet mental health.

Find Action 4 Mental Health on Facebook. We will post new events on Facebook and on this site once venues and final timings are confirmed.

Minutes from the July 19 meeting

Thank you to Cllr Helen Crittenden for the comprehensive notes of the meeting. There’s more detail to follow.

The Comfort Inn, Victoria Parade, Ramsgate – 19th July 2019 at 7.00 pm
Over 100 local residents were present


Cllr Constantine opened the meeting and introduced the Panel members.

The reason for calling the meeting was due to concerns that had been raised with Cllr Constantine as a HOSC member, Kent Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee, regarding difficulties in accessing mental health services, and the consequences of those difficulties.

Each of the panellists gave a brief background to their involvement in health services and mental health issues.

Dr Jihad Malasi is the lead for mental health on the Thanet Commissioning Group. He is involved in primary care (as a GP) as well as specialising in mental health. Dr Malasi introduced plans for improving access to mental health services through GP services.

Dr Kirsten Lawson, consultant psychiatrist specialist in mental health working for Kent Partnership Trust, carries out clinical work in Dover and has management responsibility for providing services in East Kent.

Craig McKinley, MP, gave some background statistics on suicide

  • 60% of people who commit suicide have never had contact with their GP or other services first
  • Waiting lists for mental health services are long, particularly for young people
  • Current spending is £12 billion p.a. across the county, which is 9% of the NHS budget
  • National suicide rates are the lowest they have been for a long time
  • The local Clinical Commissioning Group have decided to spend 13.4% of their budget on mental health issues
  • Referrals to services have increased by 50% from an average of 30 per week in 2014
  • Need to look at the causes, citing social media and the creeping legalisation of cannabis, however Kent currently has the lowest suicide rate seen here in five years
  • The Beacon currently has 5 staff vacancies for mental health nurses

Jane Hetherington is a local Ramsgate Town Councillor, until recently working for the local Trust with specialism in mental health.

All four agreed that they were present tonight to hear the views and experiences of those who were present for the meeting.

John Childs of Speak Up CIC introduced the work of his organisation, reiterating the problem of long waiting lists for services not just in Thanet but across East Kent

Peter Lansley, Direct of Canterbury Samaritans introduced the work of his organisation. Although based in Canterbury they cover Thanet and are one of 200 branches across the whole of the UK. They deal with 5-6 million calls per year and are primarily a listening service. Although cover is not 24/7 in Thanet anyone phoning the Samaritans at any time of day or night should find someone to talk to.

Debbie Howes, Trauma Therapist, runs an outreach service in Ramsgate. Again they are oversubscribed and have to close to new referrals. They should be dealing with just primary mental health care but are increasingly dealing with secondary mental health service users. They have a waiting list of 5-6 months.

People in the room spoke of their experiences in either using services such as Beacon themselves, or the experiences of family members. No details are recorded to preserve confidentiality.

Panel members spoke of the development of mental health services being decades behind physical health services. References were made to primary and secondary mental health services, explaining that the right building blocks of services are needed so people can be seen sooner, when their symptoms are less severe: evidence is that early intervention prevents deterioration but there are gaps in the system.

Dr Masai explained that Thanet is divided into three parts. There are 14 GP practices but the key building block missing is the primary mental health service and he would like to see patients with mild to moderate symptoms being seen through GP practices (primary care) while patients with more severe symptoms would be seen through secondary services.

A key issue raised by some members of the public present expressed the need for 24/7 services as it is often in the night when a crisis hits, at the same time as when services are closed. An example was given of a Crisis Café plan to be available for anyone who needed support any time of the day or night. Everything was in place to set this up in Margate, including the premises, volunteers and funding, but the NHS rejected the scheme and it was not allowed to go ahead.

Many people were surprised to hear of some of the services that exist and it was felt that there was a lack of a co-ordination and information about available resources.

There are problems with staff vacancies. The audience heard about the difficulties experienced by specialist mental health nurses in finding affordable accommodation and living on their salary without resorting to benefits and food banks. This is partly because of the high rate of living in Kent. Concern also expressed that with the stopping of bursaries by this government has led (as the government was warned) to younger staff who have not yet developed the resilience for such demanding work, something that cannot be taught in a classroom.

Praise was given for initiatives such as Fantastic Fred, an NHS mental health resource teaching children about maintaining good mental health through schools.


  • Long waiting lists
  • Lack of information for family members particularly on discharge
  • Lack of information about resources that are available, whether community resources or through the NHS
  • Family members not being listened to by services, resulting in treatment that was sometimes seen as damaging
  • Gaps in service that occur during transitional periods, particularly for young people moving from youth services to adult services
  • Communications breakdown generally


  • How to reduce waiting times for new users
  • More attention needs to be paid to the information that can be provided by families about the particular vulnerabilities of their family member – where is the ‘team around the patient’
  • Plug the gap in the service around transitional planning
  • Improved information about available services
  • A member of the audience asked Craig McKinley to invite the Secretary of State to Thanet for an exchange of views
  • Involve Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services in future meetings to help address the issues around transitional planning


  • Dr Jihad Masai – have listened and taken on board what has been said and will come back another time to tell you what has been done
  • Dr Kirsten Lawson – will take action in relation to ward discharge processes and involvement of families
  • Craig McKinley, MP – will work with Karen (KCC & TDC councillor) to get together a list of crisis hotlines and follow up about the Crisis Café

Media coverage of the meeting

Cutting from The Isle of Thanet News

Kathy Bailes of Isle of Thanet News attended the meeting. You can read her write up here.

Read more news