A HEALTH board has apologised after it emerged that nearly 1,700 mental health patients were wrongly discharged from the service due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The interim chief executive of Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board originally told members of the Senedd that between 200 and 300 patients were impacted by the decision.

However, in a letter to a Plaid Cymru politician, it has now revealed the figure to be much higher.

The move was originally uncovered after the party obtained a copy of a letter sent to someone who was released from local mental health services in Flintshire because of the COVID-19 situation.

It also stated that patients had been advised to discuss re-referrals with their GPs once lockdown restrictions are lifted.

The Leader:

BCUHB Chair, Mark Polin and Interim Chief Executive, Simon Dean

Now that the true scale of those impacted has been revealed, Rhun ap Iorwerth MS, has questioned how it was allowed to happen and called for an immediate rebuilding of mental health services in the region.

The Plaid Cymru health spokesman said: “One patient being discharged before time is one patient too many. To now learn that 1,694 patients were discharged early, while they still needed support from mental health services, is a deeply distressing.

“I welcome the assurance that all 1,694 patients will be contacted in the coming days to be reinstated to this vital service, but the question remains as to how such a decision could have happened right across the health board area, and how there could have been such widespread ‘misinterpretation’ of guidance.

“It should have been pretty clear that this would be unacceptable. I think it’s clear that immediate investment is needed in rebuilding mental health services.”

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board has admitted the decision was taken due to a misinterpretation of Welsh Government guidance.

It clarified that the discharge of services applied only to primary care mental health patients, for example, those who receive GP referrals for services such as counselling, and not inpatients.

The board now says it intends to contact them all in the coming days to be reinstated.

Simon Dean, interim chief executive said: “I would like to reassure people that primary mental health care services are receiving referrals as normal.

“We will also be contacting all recently discharged patients to review the level of support they may need.

“I would like to say how sorry I am for any distress that may have been caused.”