Wednesday 5 October 2011

Not So Boring

Stifling a yawn or two I've been dutifully reading the Welsh Government's "Programme for Government 2011 - 2016" which includes some useful and some more woolly commitments about mental health - a useful commitment to individual care planning but a woolly promise to "review" access to talking treatments. See the details here.

You can detect the First Minister's own hand on the approach they are taking which is to emphasise delivery rather than reform in public services and specifically to concentrate on things which citizens actually notice as changing for the better in their individual lives. All Carwyn's recent rhetoric has been about this.

You could be cynical and wonder if this is a sign of an administration bereft of big ideas or the "vision thing" - or else you might wonder what previous governments were doing if it wasn't improving individual lives! But Carwyn is a canny fellow and probably realises that the public are a bit fed up with big ideas and looking for a spell of boring but functional government while we creep along in these dire economic times. Anyway they just can't afford to do much new and interesting.

Looking at this positively I think we should work on (and with) the Government's instincts about the way ahead and show them simple, cost-effective things they could do to improve the lives of people with a mental illness and their families.

Here's one example which a patient who was concerned about losing contact with families gave us: "In-patients should have video contact with their homes – available via IT systems such as Skype". Good plan - it would cost peanuts compared with the eyewatering cost of in-patient care and surely save money (even short-term) by promoting recovery (and earlier discharge) for people in hospital through the comfort of sustained contact with loved ones.

Lots of practical ideas like that could add up to making a really big difference in mental health services - not so boring after all?