I know what you mean. I live in the north west as well KitKat and have been spending the last few months doing nothing much else than applying for job after job, and keep getting told that I have no prior experience of working with patients (although I've been working in the outpatients dept. of a local hospital, it's more admin based). However I have just FINALLY started work as a healthcare assistant on a neurology ward in Lancashire.
I'll let you in on a little secret I found out before applying, it worked for me....
Just keep applying for any HCA jobs that come up in the area as most hospitals carry out 'group interview days' for a variety of different wards (inc. mental health and neuro etc). During the interview they asked what type of ward/ patient group would I like to work with and I mentioned about wanting to gain experience in mental health. They explained that on the neurology wards they often get patients with a variety of cognitive behavioural difficulties/ neuro rehab injuries so placed me on this ward for the experience I needed. Even if there are no ideal positions available it'll at least give your the experience you need to then transfer across into a more suitable vacancy within the hospital as they arise.
Hope this helps you all. And good luck!!