A study has been launched to find out why people with mental health conditions and drug and alcohol issues are not getting enough support from health and community services in Gloucestershire.

The county’s independent health and social care champion Healthwatch Gloucestershire is carrying out the research after seeing a rise in complaints from people about the lack of support and integration between mental health and drug and alcohol services in the county.

The research project aims to find out why current statutory and community mental health support services and support services for those with drug and alcohol issues aren’t working well together to support people who have co-existing problems.

One patient told Healthwatch Gloucestershire: “I use both mental health and alcohol addiction services.  I find it hard to access both services; each says I am the other person’s problem, and I can’t get help from one until my other illness is sorted.”

Julia Butler-Hunt, Manager at Healthwatch Gloucestershire, said: “Substance misuse is formally defined as the continued misuse of any mind-altering substance that has a severe impact on a person’s physical and mental health.

“This could mean alcohol, drugs, glue and even smoking.  The most severe forms of substance misuse are normally treated by specialist drug and alcohol rehabilitation services.  And for those with mental health problems as well, the mental health team would be involved.

“Feedback given to us over the last year suggests these services are not working well together to provide a co-ordinated treatment plan, and we want to find out why this is the case and what health and community services can do to improve for future patients.”

A team of trained Healthwatch Gloucestershire volunteers will now visit local groups that provide support for service users, their families and unpaid carers.  These conversations will largely be carried out in the form of a focus groups and will help form a report which will be presented to the health and community services later this year.

Patients and their families are also being asked to share their views and experiences in an online survey which now closes on Saturday 30 November: https://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/GloucMHSM/