COMMUNITY mental health services could learn and improve if they listen to the views of the people who need their support, according to a new report from Healthwatch Dorset.

Healthwatch Dorset has been talking to local people with a range of mental health support needs, including people who are experiencing homelessness and those with drug and alcohol addictions, as well as voluntary sector workers who support them.

The county health watchdog wanted to understand how mental health support is provided to people in the community, and to hear people’s views about how mental health services could be improved.

Healthwatch Dorset manager Louise Bate said: "We wanted to speak to people who don't always have a strong voice, to give them the opportunity to make a real difference to the way mental health services in our community are set up and delivered.

"Our thanks go to everyone who talked so openly about their personal stories and experiences to help make change happen."

Healthwatch Dorset engagement officer Lucy Cribb spoke in depth to 27 people who use local support groups across Bournemouth, Poole and Dorset.

Issues identified through the project, Healthwatch Dorset, says included long waiting times to access mental health services in the community; lack of access to community mental health services for people who are using drugs and/or alcohol; medication routinely prescribed instead of therapy; instant discharge from care due to a missed appointment.

The Healthwatch Dorset report makes several recommendations for change and improvement to help services address these issues. The report has been shared with the Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group to inform their ongoing review and development of community mental health services.

Di Bardwell, of Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group, said: "We want everyone living in Dorset to experience the best mental health and wellbeing possible.

"Currently, primary and community mental health services don’t always meet everyone’s needs.

"The experiences and views of local people are vital in helping us to understand what is working well and what needs to be improved.

"We are very grateful to Healthwatch Dorset for helping us to reach out – and we’d like to say a special thank you to their engagement officer for having these important conversations."