NORTH Wales’ health board has outlined plans to improve access to mental health support across the region.

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB) says its network of iCAN services, delivered in partnership with third sector providers, will make it easier for people to receive the right support in the right place at the right time.

These services include 12 iCAN community hubs, which have all now opened their doors to the public, having provided online support to more than 2,500 people during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The hubs, spread across the six counties of North Wales, can be accessed on a drop in basis and provide support on a range of issues, including debt, relationship breakdowns, drug or alcohol problems, employment difficulties, bereavement, housing and loneliness.

They are being run in partnership with third-sector providers who have proven track records of helping people experiencing mental health-related difficulties.

The health board is also recruiting additional occupational therapists to work in GP surgeries as part of its iCAN Primary service, following a successful pilot in Gwynedd and Anglesey.

They will work closely with iCAN hubs and other community services, ensuring people can access earlier, in-depth assessments and support, while reducing pressure on GPs and the need for referral to more specialist mental health services.

Plans are also being developed to improve access to timely and appropriate support for people experiencing a mental health crisis during the evenings and weekends.

A comprehensive range of digital self-help guides will also be made available on the health board’s website and dedicated support is being offered to help people access SilverCloud online mental health therapy and other mental health related apps.

Meanwhile, BCUHB’s ground-breaking iCAN Work employment support scheme for people experiencing low-level mental health problems continues to go from strength to strength.

The programme, delivered by charities Adferiad and the Rhyl City Strategy, is the first of its kind in Wales.

Since 2019, it has helped almost 200 people into work, while 80 per cent of those supported have reported improvements in their wellbeing.

Jo Whitehead, chief executive of BCUHB, said: “Our range of iCAN services will make it easier for people to receive the right support, in the right place, at the right time.

“By intervening early, we can help get people back on track, prevent their symptoms from worsening, and reduce waiting times for the smaller number of people who require support from our specialist mental health services.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on people’s mental health and I’m delighted that we are able to work with our partners to offer these much needed additional services.”