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Free online mental health service expands reach in south Wales

09 Apr 2024 3 minute read
A new referral system has been launched.

People in south Wales can now access free online mental health therapy through a new referral system rolled out to help address waiting lists.

The service has been set up in partnership with Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board (CTMUHB).

For the first time, the health board’s Local Primary and Child and Adolescent Mental Health services can refer clients to a suite of guided, online self-help programmes based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

CTMUHB – serving Merthyr Tydfil, Bridgend and Rhondda Cynon Taf – is the third health board to gain direct referral access to the service, with teams at Powys Teaching Health Board (PTHB) and Aneurin Bevan already referring.

Waiting lists

Referrals through a further two Welsh health boards are on track to go live in the coming months.

Online CBT project manager Fionnuala Clayton said the measure aimed to address waiting lists for mental health support, and backed the Welsh Government’s commitment to digital therapies, outlined in its new Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy.

She said: “This is a collaborative effort between health boards which strives to offer an equitable service and faster access to support for patients across Wales.”

CTMUHB Primary Care lead therapist Andrew Munkley added: “We are really excited in Cwm Taf Morgannwg about this new referral route.

“The demand for evidenced-based therapy is greater than ever, and this option means we significantly increase the offer to our population virtually overnight.”

The service, based at Powys Teaching Health Board, is powered by online mental health platform SilverCloud®.

The interactive programmes teach practical coping skills for mild to moderate mental health issues and can be accessed online anytime, anywhere via any mobile, tablet, laptop or desktop device.

Anyone in Wales aged 16+ can already self-refer to the service for free without seeing a GP or joining waiting lists.

Self-referral

However Andrew explained that referral via a professional meant it would now reach individuals who may not have been able to access it in the past through self-referral.

The self-referral process involves a set of questionnaires which are used to determine the severity of individuals’ symptoms.

“They may have scored a little too highly to access SilverCloud – which is designed for mild to moderate symptoms – so this offers the opportunity to access the service with the additional safety net of local support if it’s needed,” he said.

“Additionally, people sometimes need a little extra help accessing the platform if they feel overwhelmed or anxious about engaging with services.”

Support through the programmes is provided for 12 weeks, but service users can set their own pace and access material and exercises even after completing courses.

Progress is monitored by trained practitioners, who provide fortnightly feedback and can escalate more serious cases to access further support.

30,000 people have received support from the service – funded by the Welsh government – since it piloted in Powys in 2018.

If you’re under the care of CTMUHB’s Local Primary or Child and Adolescent Mental Health services, discuss a referral with your therapist.


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