Friday 6 January 2012

Zealous Newshounds

After a few days back in the office this seems a good moment to reflect on what the coming year holds for people with a serious mental illness and their families. Fortunately I don't need to work all that out for myself because those zealous newshounds of our very own Grub Street, aka Mental Health Wales, have done the work for me...

Clearly the biggest milestone of 2012 will be the implementation of the Mental Health (Wales) Measure. The Measure gives vital new rights to service users which could greatly enhance their opportunities for recovery. At the heart of the Measure is a significant new right for users of secondary mental health services to a comprehensive Care and Treatment Plan covering: accommodation; education and training; finance and money; medical and other forms of treatment, including psychological interventions; parenting or caring relationships; personal care and physical well-being; social, cultural and spiritual; and work and occupation. This means that service users will now have the opportunity to take a holistic approach to their recovery and set goals in all areas of their lives.

This key new right is backed up by new rights to advocacy for all in-patients, not just those subject to the Mental Health Act; a right for those discharged from services to reaccess services in a timely way; and by a requirement for Health and Social Services to agree a standard for services at primary care.

Mental Health Wales asks rhetorically whether mental health services will simply pay lip service to the new law or will there be a sea change in service delivery, with a new focus on delivering individuals’ care plans.

I don't know the answer to that but it's a fair guess that we won't see big changes if we sit back and see what happens. There are many skilled and committed managers in our mental health services but they won't be able to revolutionise services without the encouragement and active engagement of the consumers of those services. That's why the key mass membership consumer organisations Hafal and Bipolar UK (formerly MDF) are committed to working with our friends in the Mental Health Foundation on a campaign to promote positive delivery of the Measure. This will certainly be the major focus of our campaigning in 2012 - so watch this space!

Other key issues which Mental Health Wales has highlighted are...

· The Welsh Government will be consulting on its new Strategy for mental health early in the year.

· Claimants in receipt of Incapacity Benefit will continue to be migrated to the new Employment Support Allowance benefit – a process which began in spring 2011 and is due to be completed in 2014.

· "Time to Change", a three-year anti-discrimination campaign run in partnership by mental health charities Gofal, Hafal and Mind Cymru, will be launched.

· A study published in 2011 found that only 1 in 10 prisoners with psychosis are receiving treatment for their illnesses in prison, suggesting that the UK Government’s plans to divert people with mental health problems away from the criminal justice system are not working. We will have to get stuck into this worrying issue.


Driving to work this morning I gain a little insight into the psychology of the Prime Minister. In an interview on Radio 4 he is asked which actor he thinks might play him in a future film with the teasing suggestion of Malcolm McDowell reprising his role as Flashman. Cameron refers instead, and approvingly, to the obscure Lindsay Anderson film "If" (1968) in which McDowell plays a rebellious public schoolboy acting out a fantasy about machine-gunning the teaching staff and assorted big-wigs on Speech Day. In case you are worried about the mental stability of the PM you may be reassured to know that this is something which many or most public schoolboys have fantasised about.