Friday 2 November 2012


Excellent interview with the Government's mental health Strategy lead Sian Richards here, including a useful answer on the critical issue of the ring-fence...

Q: The current economic climate is very harsh. What does the Strategy say about ring-fencing money for mental health services and protecting existing resources?

A: "Together for Mental Health" reaffirms the commitment made by the Minister for Health and Social Services to the mental health ring-fence, ensuring that mental health funding is protected in these challenging financial times. It sets out clear expectations that Local Health Boards’ expenditure on mental health services must be open and transparent and signals a review of the effectiveness of the ring-fence. Spending on mental health remains the largest single area of the health budget.

The great thing about the ring-fence (so long as it's enforced!) is that it can embolden planners of mental health services in the NHS to reform their services without the risk that their Directors of Finance grab savings when redundant or time-served services are exposed.

Without the ring-fence mental health insiders are more likely to protect existing services willy-nilly even if they are out-of-date on the basis that an old-fashioned service is better than none at all. In other words the ring-fence is not just vital in preserving the resources but it's also an agent for change. For clarity the ring-fence quite rightly does not protect resources for existing services but rather requires that if a service is wholly withdrawn, slimmed down, or made more efficient then the savings must be reinvested in other mental health services.

The Minister has acknowledged that it was patients specifically who persuaded her about this matter (and actually I know which ones!) - little wonder as service-users and their families are interested in the practicalities and know that the rest of the Strategy is just so many words if the money isn't protected.


Revered arbiter of food quality Good Housekeeping magazine has tested Christmas turkeys and the Co-op's British Elmwood frozen birds came top (Mrs Blog had already got this very brand and it's in the freezer); meanwhile the best cranberry sauce was Tesco's at £1.49 (worst was Fortnum and Mason at £10.95). It isn't true that "you get what you pay for" and my advice is to ring-fence your Christmas budget and if you make savings by ignoring snobby brands then reinvest those savings in an Aldi Christmas pud - £7.99 and GH says "delicious" and a "real bargain" (Fortnums £24.95 and "a real disappointment").