“A MIXED package with some damning comments” was the outcome of SUNS’ independent survey into patients’ treatment at the hands of the mental health services according to the charity.

Determined to re-focus Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partner-ship on its patients, the mental health organisation launched its own questionnaire to allow users to voice their opinions, whether positive or negative, of the service.

The survey was put together with a view to improve the care delivered by AWP and ensure its staff did not fall out of touch with users’ needs on the ground.

Out of the 60 questionnaires sent out to local groups and charities such as MIND or answered by individual patients, 56 responded with very split views of mental health care in the town.

But most were overwhelmingly critical of AWP’s intensive team, known as its crisis team, which was described as inadequate.

Out of the 75 per cent who contacted the team for help on the brink of suicide, more than 78 per cent were dissatisfied with the help they received, while nought per cent were satisfied and just 9 per cent were somewhat satisfied.

“It’s a mixed package,” said SUNS chairman Ann Mooney.

“But we have received many complaints about the crisis team so we were expecting it to come high in terms of dissatisfaction.

“Overall people’s opinion is not good. Service users feel let down and their comments are damning.

“The goal was to show both the positive and the negative and allow service users to leave comments and have their say.”

Out of those polled, 82 per cent were seeing or had seen a psychiatrist. Of those, 26 per cent were satisfied with their psychiatrist while 28 per cent were dissatisfied.

Out of the 25 per cent in contact with the recovery team, 35 per cent were dissatisfied and just 21 per cent satisfied, with 14 per cent falling in each of the somewhat satisfied, neither satisfied or dissatisfied or somewhat dissatisfied categories.

While opinions were split in most areas, the mental health service’s sport therapy scheme Active Life was praised by users.

Out of the 67 per cent of respondents using it, more than 38 per cent were satisfied and 33 per cent somewhat satisfied with the programme and just five per cent dissatisfied.

Yet the comments submitted in general were scathing, according to Ann.

“What keeps coming back is the fact that people at the mental health service don’t listen or care and the lack of empathy,” she said.

“The comments reflect the fact that it’s time to look at a new care provider. If the quality of care doesn’t improve mental health care should be put out to tender. It’s time for change.

The results were collated by Healthwatch Swindon to ensure impartiality. They will now be submitted to the Care Quality Commission watchdog, which started a region-wide inspection of the mental health service.

To find out more about SUNS visit www.swindonsuns.org Alternatively, call Margaret on 01793 436174 or Ann on 0773 8218434.

To speak to a Listening Line volunteer call 01793 332520 or email help@swindonlisteningline