Thursday 31 May 2012


The Movin’ On Up campaign moved on up to Aberystwyth today.

Hafal Aberystwyth Practice Leader Ruth Wilson tells us: "It’s great to have the Measure but will it really make a difference? It’s no good having a law which is good in theory but which doesn’t deliver what service users and carers want. If the Measure 'does what it says on the tin' then it will be a real step forward. The important thing is that there are some good systems in place to check that we can make the most of the new law."

Ruth is right to sound a caution about assuming the new law will just work - we definitely need good monitoring on implementation and Hafal will be both celebrating good quality Plans and also blowing the whistle if people don't get their legal rights fully met.

Ruth goes on to explain the potential for the new Measure: "In terms of my illness I was pre-Care and Treatment Plans; my recovery from serious mental illness was more by luck than design. The Measure means users of secondary mental health services will finally have a legal right to an holistic Care and Treatment Plan covering all eight life areas (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 or spiritual; work and occupation). If Plans like these were around when I was younger my process of recovery would have speeded up phenomenally. In fact if holistic Care and Treatment Plans were available when I was ill I think my recovery would have taken six months as opposed to the five years it actually took."

Hafal will launch a new publication designed to help service users get the most from the new Care and Treatment Plans (which will be introduced on June 6th) next month. You can get a preview of the guide here - Care and Treatment Planning: a step-by-step guide for secondary mental health service users. The guide will be launched alongside the Code of Practice for Parts 2 and 3 of the Mental Health (Wales) Measure by Health and Social Services Minister Lesley Griffiths AM at the Pierhead Building, Cardiff, on June 11th.

Monday 28 May 2012

Childhood Delight

Many of us have childhood memories of endless hot weather where real time seemed to come to a halt, replaced by a repeating cycle of swimming in the sea, getting sand between the toes, smelling cut grass, listening to bees buzzing among the flowers and lying in long meadow-grass hidden from view.

This weekend I experience all those things and, though in adulthood you can never quite avoid the reality check that bad weather and the need to go to work are around the corner, nevertheless you can at least recollect, even momentarily re-experience, that feeling of timelessness which accords a kind of immortality.

It is important to make these connections with childhood and resist the sad and self-denying idea that "you are not the person you were then". Because you are! And it is important to stay in touch with that childhood delight in life.

Art too demonstrates how the landscape and hot weather can oddly halt time or strangely unite it. Conventionally you could point to many paintings of the Romantic movement but actually one of my favourite examples is the opening scene from the Powell Pressburger film "A Canterbury Tale" (1944) where the timeless countryside unites the 14th century seamlessly but dramatically with the 20th just through the expedient of looking upwards - you can see it here (about 3.5 minutes in if you are in a hurry). Clever war-time propaganda too because it reinforces incredulity that all this could come to an end under the Nazi jackboot.

Friday 25 May 2012

Global Warming

Apparently it was the hottest May night since records began last night, not a statistic I'm going to argue with. But for heaven's sake let's not complain. Now that we are apparently all to "blame" for the weather (a very Old Testament notion somehow?) I for one am happy to take credit for the fine weekend ahead which, had I not over many years roared around in my car and turned up the thermostat on the central heating, would have been the usual drizzle and nippy winds affair. Don't feel you have to thank me personally but I wanted you to know.

Anyway, let's catch up with Movin' On Up which rolled into Bridgend yesterday. The importance of holistic Care and Treatment Plans was one of the major talking points.

Paul Dennis, a service user at Hafal’s Bridgend project, tells us: "I know from experience that mental health patients require a lot more than just medication to get better. We campaigned for a long time to ensure that service users have a right to a Care and Treatment Plan that covers the eight areas of life and looks at all a patient’s needs (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 or spiritual; work and occupation). It’s great that the new Plans are about to come into force under the Mental Health (Wales) Measure."

Well said, Paul, and Hafal is launching a new publication designed to help service users get the most from the Plans which will be introduced on June 6th. "Care and Treatment Planning: a step-by-step guide for secondary mental health service users" will be launched along with the Code of Practice for the Mental Health (Wales) Measure by Health and Social Services Minister Lesley Griffiths AM at the Pierhead Building, Cardiff, on June 11th.

Holistic Care and Treatment Plans were not the only topic of discussion at today’s event in Bridgend. Service users and carers also spoke about the draft Mental Health Strategy, "Together for Mental Health", which was published by the Welsh Government recently. The response was positive – service users and carers welcomed the Strategy and its focus on the whole population; but participants agreed that the Strategy needs to focus more on vulnerable people with the highest needs.

Thursday 24 May 2012

Jacobitical Curmudgeon

You might have formed the impression from this Blog that in my spare time I take exercise, visit the theatre, or benefit from reading an improving book. Well, yes, that is part of the truth but I also spend a lot of time in less edifying relaxation such as lolling on the sofa chuckling at repeats of The Inbetweeners, that disturbingly accurate portrayal of male adolescence.

From that perspective I am awestruck with admiration for those people, including many Hafal staff, who hold down a job and then study hard in their spare time for additional qualifications. One such is Hafal Deputy Chief Executive Alun Thomas who has just graduated with a degree in law from the Open University.

Alun is in a long tradition of distinguished Welsh jurists from Hywel Dda onwards. Indeed his implacable gaze in the graduation portrait reminds me forcibly of one predecessor in that tradition, namely Judge Jeffreys, James II's legal enforcer who came from Wrexham. The "Hanging Judge", as he was known, conducted the Bloody Assizes in which the freedom-fighters (as the Protestant tradition would have them) of the Monmouth Rebellion were tried and routinely executed. Jeffreys went to my school as it happens where it must be assumed that any innate compassion and humanity in the man was squeezed out.

Like Alun Jeffreys was a good scholar with a sound knowledge of the law. And, also like Alun, he didn't waste any time in conducting his professional duties, on one occasion trying and sentencing 144 people to death in just two days!

Mr Alun Thomas - An Apology

This is a statement from the defendants in re Thomas versus Bill's Blog et al at the High Court of Justice (Queen's Bench Division). Bill's Blog and its distributors and publishers Google Blogspot Ltd may have inadvertently given the impression that Mr Alun Thomas in some wise or manner could resemble or otherwise share characteristics with the late George Jeffreys 1st Baron of Wem. We wish to make it known without qualification and in full knowledge of all the facts in this matter that we accept unambiguously that Mr Thomas is in fact a liberal, fair-minded professional of the utmost probity and good character who in no possible way whatsoever (excepting the implacable gaze) could bare the remotest comparison with the Jacobitical and curmudgeonly former Lord Chancellor. In particular we accept that Mr Thomas would never emulate the said Judge by using the instruments of the law to disproportionately oppress his fellow citizens.

(Alun, hope this is enough for you to withdraw the superinjunction, criminal libel charge, and claim for exemplary damages?)

Monday 21 May 2012

Not Just Consulted

David Crepaz-Keay climbs the 25 foot "wall of death" during a break from the Seminar

Catching up this morning with events last week. We had a tremendous result last Thursday with the Movin’ On Up Seminar...

Expert Patient Trainer Dave Smith explains: "It was an exciting event with a great representation of service users, carers, health professionals and policy makers. Often service users are consulted for their ideas and opinions but the Seminar saw an actual conversation between us, senior policy makers in Government and the NHS. It was empowering for everyone – and because of frankness of the discussion and the equality given to the various perspectives, the event generated some truly innovative ideas."

And our valued colleague David Crepaz-Keay, Head of Empowerment and Social Inclusion at the Mental Health Foundation, said: "Twenty years ago the idea that you could come to a conference that was led by the people who are most important in the process would not have been believed. It’s been a truly enjoyable and informative day."

Key points that emerged from the day included the following:

• A process is required where the outcomes of the Mental Health (Wales) Measure are recorded and disseminated so that service users and carers know that it is working, that it is making a difference and that it is not just a piece of paper but a real step forward.

• There is a major task to embed the culture needed for the implementation of the new Measure and Strategy in the day-to-day practice of Care Coordinators and other front-line staff, as well as their managers.

• Service users and carers need to be formally involved in the wider commissioning of services and not just ‘consulted’. There also needs to be a specific intention to acknowledge and enhance the role of carers through the Strategy and the Measure and through the information strategies required by the Carers Measure.

Multitasking as usual David CK popped up again transformed into a yeti to put the fear into his Chief Exec Andrew McCulloch, Bipolar UK's Sue Wigmore, and me...

Meanwhile on Friday the campaign reached Neath Port Talbot with an event in Neath’s busy town centre...

Wednesday 16 May 2012

A Dialogue Of Equals

I'm looking forward to the Seminar tomorrow in Llandrindod where I will (as is now customary) take a largely back seat and let the panel of real experts, that means users and a carers, facilitate the day and continue their dialogue begun last year with the great and the good (not meant sarcastically I assure you!) in Welsh mental health services.

The Seminar is one of the highlights of our service user-led "Movin’ On Up" summer-long campaign. The aim of the campaign is to maximise the opportunities for recovery provided by the Welsh Government's new Mental Health Strategy and the Mental Health (Wales) Measure and the Carers Measure.

At the Seminar service users and carers will develop their continuing "dialogue of equals" with senior policy makers and providers of mental health services with a focus on:

• Engaging in the development and implementation of the new Mental Health Strategy ensuring that it is recovery-focused, empowers service users and their families, and supports the Mental Health (Wales) Measure by prescribing the services which individual Care and Treatment Plans demand.

• Taking full advantage of the Mental Health (Wales) Measure which promotes holistic care and treatment planning. The campaign will see service users taking the lead in negotiating robust Care and Treatment Plans which address all areas of life. Service users and their carers will challenge mental health and other services to deliver on the new law by acting on the Care and Treatment Plans in collaboration with their clients. They will also challenge the Welsh Government, NHS and local authorities to ensure that resources for mental health and other services are focused on meeting needs identified in the Care and Treatment Plans.

• Ensuring that the families and carers of people with a serious mental illness are able to exercise their rights under the new Carers’ Measure and Mental Health (Wales) Measure so that they can support the people they care for on their path to recovery – and achieve a better life themselves.

• Promoting the take-up of other opportunities provided by the new Mental Health (Wales) Measure for improved primary care services (including mental health assessments, short-term interventions and onward referral to secondary services), for an expanded scheme of independent mental health advocacy for all in-patients, and for improved and faster re-access rights for those who have been discharged from secondary services.

The facilitators tomorrow will be experts with lived experience: Dave Smith, Expert Patient Trainer, Hafal; Nigel Griffiths, Welsh Advisory Board Chair, Bipolar UK; and David Crepaz-Keay, Head of Programmes in Wales, Mental Health Foundation.

Service users and carers have achieved a great success in campaigning for new mental health law in Wales. Now we want to take our campaigning to a new level and become fully involved in the development of the new Mental Health Strategy as well as making sure that users and carers make the most of their new rights under the Mental Health Measure and Carers Measure. The Seminar offers an excellent opportunity for discussion and generation of good, practical ideas.

Monday 14 May 2012

Yet Another Motorcycling Vicar

I read somewhere when I started out on this adventure in virtual egotism that successful Blogs find a unique raison d'ĂȘtre or rei causa et origo which sustains and justifies them. I had thought that in this case it was an informed take (well, you must judge that) on mental health services in Wales. But as time goes on I have realised that there are other matters of moment which must be exposed including closet Welsh people through the ages and, now, the phenomenon of motorcycling vicars.

The latest one to come to light was surprisingly close to home - or rather work. Hafal's Company Secretary Nicola Thomas tells me that, like me, she had a grandfather in holy orders (called George - and he is buried in Llandeilo whence he came) who rode a motorbike. But she has capped my story because her precipitate prelate actually lost his leg in a motorcycling accident, proving I suppose that the Almighty does not necessarily protect his earthly intermediaries.

Meanwhile my sister-in-law has sent me a link to the previous motorcycling vicar whom I met last week. See a remarkable insight into life in 1962 here. The bit with the vicar doing the Twist should give comfort to anybody who is self-conscious about dancing in public - or there again it may confirm your worst fears.

Sunday 13 May 2012

On Top Of The World

Wow that was a busy week for Hafal! Movin' On Up reached Swansea on Thursday and then on Friday our first big mountain climb up Pen y Fan.

Over 100 mental health service users, carers and health professionals scaled the mountain as part of our national campaign run by mental health service users and carers across Wales. Rising 886 metres above sea-level, Pen y Fan in the Brecon Beacons is the highest point in southern Britain.

I have been up Pen y Fan many times but I confess I had a little trepidation as I haven't done a good uphill walk for a few weeks. However, after a little puffing on the lower slopes the pipes seemed to clear and I was in high spirits as I moved quickly around Corn Du and up the final ascent to the top where all the climbers, most of whom had never been here before, congregated to celebrate and wolf down our picnic lunch kindly provided by Barclays Bank.

As we were eating the swirling cloud cover moved above the peak and we could all see for miles 360 degrees around, including the Bristol channel and Somerset to the south, Snowdonia to the north and, relatively nearby, the Black Mountains (with their Christian heritage of the Gospel Pass and Llanthony Abbey) to the east and the (confusingly similar but note singular) Black Mountain (with its mysterious pagan heritage of Llyn y Fan Fach) to the west.

We made the climb to mark the "step up" in service user and carer campaigning in 2012 - a momentous year when the Mental Health Measure, Carers Strategies Measure and new Mental Health Strategy promise to deliver new rights and opportunities.

Setting off - I am out of shot having dashed back to Base Camp to fetch my lunch which I had forgotten

Christine Evans, a service user from Neath Port Talbot, tells us: "It was an epic climb! The walkers had a really good time getting to know each other and standing at the top of the mountain felt terrific.

"The interest we've had from service users, carers and professionals from all over Wales has been huge. And I'm sure there'll be just as much interest in our Snowdon climb this September.

"The climbs are symbolic: we want to show how service users and carers in Wales can lead the way forward, take services to a new level and achieve new heights."

The "Movin' On Up" campaign is run by service users and carers and supported by mental health charities Hafal, Bipolar UK and the Mental Health Foundation...

Mel Cook - Mental Health Foundation, Bill Walden-Jones - Hafal, Sue Wigmore - Bipolar UK

More fun next week plus a serious bit with our Seminar on Thursday where service users and carers will facilitate dialogue with movers and shakers from the Welsh Government, NHS, and local authorities. I'll also have more to say in this Blog about the draft Mental Health Strategy, a key target for our campaign...

Monday 7 May 2012

Another Motorcycling Vicar

A frenetic few days starting with a brilliant opening local event for Movin' On Up at Merthyr where, in addition to the campaign microbus, mini-cinema, and mobile mountain (see picture above), we are treated to a selection of songs chosen by service-users and performed by the celebrated "Voice of Hafal" Rikki Withers. Good to see many old friends there and the discussion of the serious issues is as passionate as the fun everybody has on the day.

Next I'm off to pick up my brother who is flying into Heathrow from Bilbao en route to our niece's wedding in Hampshire. The dreaded immigration service go-slow seems to have eased so we don't get held up long. While we wait I contemplate ruefully how the world has changed as a group of paramilitary-style police hovers nearby bristling with pistols, sub-machine guns and body-armour. We are taken aback when one of them approaches us with a determined step and my life flashes before me as I consider what misdemeanours of my past are about to revisit me. But then we realise it is Mrs Blog's cousin (and bridesmaid many years ago) who resourcefully escaped rural Carmarthenshire for a challenging career in the Met - quite a contrast to upland hill-farming and riding with the Towy and Cothi (when it was still legal of course), the life to which both she and Mrs B were brought up. We reminisce while her colleagues continue to look out for worse rogues than me.

The wedding is a delight. The ceremony is at the church which I last visited for my eldest brother's (the bride's father's) funeral which of course is poignant. Indeed naturally his absence is noted during the day including a toast to his memory using the (let's say) interesting brand of potent Czech firewater the production and marketing of which my brother managed during a long deployment to Prague from his French company. But the memories are pleasant and add to, rather than detract from, the joyful ceremony and celebration. The service is amusingly interrupted by the infant bridesmaid (another niece) telling everybody repeatedly to "be quiet!".

During the reception I chat to one of two clergymen who conducted the service. He is a great uncle of the groom and tells me that he was famous for going around on a motorbike in the 1960s. I am able to report on the motor-cycling vicar in my own family (see this post) 50 years earlier. Of course these muscular men of the cloth rode proper motorbikes in contrast to the new President of France who could be seen until recently running around on one of those puny mopeds (whether with a stereotypical baguette in view is not recorded) - not the same thing at all. And, yes, I know I tipped the French election wrong (here) but I won't compound that error with one of bad taste by opening a book on how long Carla Bruni sticks with her husband now that he is plain Monsieur Sarkozy.

Thursday 3 May 2012

Real Sports

Looking forward to the first Movin' On Up event in sunny Merthyr Tydfil tomorrow - not exactly up a mountain but at just over 1,000 feet Hafal's base in Dowlais may qualify as the highest in Wales (well, let's test that - there's a pint for the first person to point out a higher one but I feel fairly secure on this).

The event will will feature a mobile cinema, our classic VW campaign campervan and a "mobile mountain" (I will reveal what this means after it is unveiled tomorrow - I haven't seen it myself yet).

Lee McCabe, our Recovery Practitioner at the Merthyr project who has personal experience of serious mental illness, explains...

"The aim of the campaign is to maximise the opportunities for recovery provided by the new Welsh Government Mental Health Strategy and the Mental Health Measure which comes into force during 2012.

"Service users and carers have achieved a great success in campaigning for new mental health law in Wales. Now we want to take our campaigning to a new level and become fully involved in the development of the new Mental Health Strategy as well as making sure that users and carers can make the most of their new rights under the Mental Health Measure and Carers Measure."

Service users and carers at the event will have the opportunity to discuss the new Strategy, find out more about the Carers Measure and explore how they can get the most out of the new Care and Treatment Plans prescribed by the Mental Health Measure.

The "Movin’ On Up" campaign is run by service users and carers with the support of three mental health charities - Hafal and our good friends in Bipolar UK and the Mental Health Foundation. The campaign includes 22 weekly events - one in every county of Wales - and will incorporate two mountain climbs with service users scaling Pen y Fan in the Brecon Beacons a week tomorrow (yes, I will be there rain or shine and I will go all the way) and Wales’ highest peak, Snowdon, in the late summer. The campaign will also feature an interactive stand at the Royal Welsh Show and an event on World Mental Health Day at the National Assembly.

The key concerns of the campaign will get a thorough airing when service users and carers facilitate a Seminar on May 17th in Builth Wells in order to develop their continuing dialogue with senior policy makers and providers of mental health services.

I'm also very much looking forward to the climb next week. As Hemingway said "There are only three real sports: bull-fighting, car racing and mountain climbing. All the others are mere games". So it's mountain climbing this summer but there are a couple of ideas for future years, subject to careful risk assessment of course.