Wednesday 31 July 2013

"Lights!" Sheds Light

I'm busy catching up with Hafal's summer campaign having been preoccupied recently with my own health problems...

This seems a good moment to reflect on the campaign so far and consider what we are learning from it (and thanks to Hafal's public affairs chief Peter Martin for briefing me). But first a reminder about what we are up to.

The Lights! Camera! ACTION! campaign is being led by mental health service users and carers, capturing their experiences of using mental health services and how effectively the Mental Health (Wales) Measure 2010 and the new mental health strategy are being delivered.

The Campaign was launched on 9th May 2013 by Mark Drakeford A.M., the Minister for Health and Social Services, and representatives from each of the 4 main political parties also spoke at the event in support of the campaign: Ken Skates (Labour), Mark Isherwood (Conservative), Leanne Wood (Plaid Cymru) and Kirsty Williams (Liberal Democrats).

So far our mobile studio has broadcast from 12 local events across South Wales and has now moved up to cover 7 North Wales counties during the high summer before heading south again to complete all 22 counties by the end of September.

Service users and carers have been talking openly and honestly at the events, many through film blogs, about their experiences and how services have either helped or hindered their own personal recovery. Also as part of the Campaign service users and carers are completing a feedback questionnaire asking about their experiences of primary and secondary mental health services.

A wide range of issues have already been highlighted by people who use mental health services, including:

• the importance of peer support in a person’s recovery

• the need for people to have somewhere secure to live

• the importance of people having greater control and more power over how services are planned and delivered

• the need for effective care and treatment planning

However, one particular message is emerging already from the campaign, and this is the need for psychological (talking) therapies to be made more widely and readily available for people with a serious mental illness, and for easier and faster access to these services. For example:

• Nigel from Newport spoke about the shortage of trained practitioners, and how it wasn’t tea and sympathy he needed but good professional therapy to help him and others with similar needs move on in their personal recovery.

• Steve from Torfaen spoke about how his psychiatrist referred him to see a psychologist but that he had to wait for over 2 years before he got an appointment to see one.

The feedback sheets also show that for many people the only option they are being offered is prescribed medication, despite a clear need having been identified for some form of specialist psychological intervention.

The Lights! Camera! ACTION! user and carer panel

So what should our response to this be? Our campaign service user and carer panel will respond formally at the end of the campaign but the feedback so far demonstrates once again that all people with a serious mental illness should have access to a range of psychological therapies. Specifically mental health services should ensure...

• routine availability of a range of psychological therapies for everyone diagnosed with a psychotic illness

• a priority for access to psychological therapies for those in greatest need

• psychological therapies for people diagnosed with a psychotic illness are available and widely used within mental health units and hospitals and becomes a standard provision

• psychological therapies begin as soon as possible for people diagnosed with a psychotic illness, and as a minimum follow NICE guidelines

• As well as making available access to specialist psychological interventions, a full range of psychological interventions are made available for people diagnosed with a psychotic illness to meet their primary care needs also (e.g. anxiety disorders, depression, etc.)

Meanwhile we have learnt a lot about implementation of the Care and Treatment Plans prescribed by the Mental Health (Wales) Measure 2010 which established a platform for people to have a greater say and more control over a range of care and treatment services they receive. Feedback suggests that more people who use secondary mental health services now have a fully completed Care and Treatment Plan. However, the quality and usefulness of those plans still varies across Wales.

Training is key to this, and not just training for the professionals. Take a look at the training course How to Get a Great Care and Treatment Plan that has been developed for delivery to mental health service users and carers by Hafal and its partners Bipolar UK and the Mental Health Foundation. We look forward to this training being widely rolled out across Wales to help drive up the quality of people’s Care and Treatment Plans.

Friday 26 July 2013

Welsh Air-Conditioning

Mrs Blog's garden which I have been contemplating now that the cardiologist has allowed me out

An up-date: symptoms permitting I will be back in the office next week. I look forward to catching up and resuming this Blog's commentary on the wider world of Hafal and mental health...

During the fierce heat and my worst moments of illness a week ago Mrs B filled two pop bottles with water, froze them in the freezer, and then played a blow-heater (on "fan only" setting) at them and onto me on my sick bed

Thursday 18 July 2013

Important New Comparative Study Of European Healthcare Systems

Dr Rhys inspects the heart monitoring machine

I'm still "under the doctor" as they say around here, in fact under an orgy of them as the specialists move in to prod and poke.

The good news from my cardiologist after a thorough exam last night is that some kind of electrical fault is most likely causing my heart to fire erratically, information which does not of itself relieve the symptoms of breathlessness and fainting but at least removes the sensation that I am about to meet my Maker or else enter eternal oblivion (take your choice).

As a classical philosopher and admirer of Montaigne I don't think I'm particularly afraid of death but I can report that its seeming imminence over the last week was...distracting.

As I write I'm wired up to a contraption which records every flicker of life in my mortal carapace and will be compared with a diary which I am instructed to keep about what grindingly mundane activities I'm up to and how I minutely feel, all in interminable and tedious detail - exactly like what everybody puts on their Twitter page.

Apart of course from Hafal's always relevant and useful tweets to be found here.

This Blog is supposed to be at least partly corporate and not just about me but I can't yet do justice to the much more exciting things happening in Hafal - see the links to the right especially our Facebook platform which has no rival anywhere for the amazing film reportage of people with a mental illness and their families. Humbling stuff.

I shall return, as General MacArthur said sucking on his corn-cob pipe.


There again I should really get something in about health policy etc so try this...

Comparing notes on Skype yesterday my older brother who lives in Spain reports an interesting conversation with his GP who has practised across Europe. He told my brother that patients require different things to satisfy them according to where they live.

Apparently he found that British patients want to be told that there is nothing wrong with them and to be sent on their way; by contrast the Spanish (perhaps because they are still excited to get free stuff from their relatively new healthcare system) want to be given lots of different pills in exotic shapes and colours.

"And you know what the French want of course, SeƱor Walden-Jones?"

"Are we talking suppositories here, doctor?" guessed my worldly and perceptive brother.

"¡Exacto! The Frenchman does not believe anything can do him good if taken only orally".

Conforming to national trends my brother, who is at least as healthy as me, takes a colourful cocktail of pills for obscure prophylactic purposes - while I take nothing at all.

But we both agree that if we lived in France we might object to the medication on offer but it would be superfluous to tell the doctor where he can stick it.

Friday 12 July 2013


So far in my life I have been lucky with my health. Indulgent readers will know that I am an occasional martyr to gout but I rarely get nasty bugs or even colds and have a pretty good sickness record - some recent years without time off and others with just a day or two (usually gout).

So, it was an unwelcome surprise to spend much of my holiday last week in the Isle of Wight, plus all the current week, poleaxed by a mystery illness which has left me prostrate, breathless, and miserable in a way I have not experienced before.

The tests continue but the money is on either an electrical fault (causing an arrhythmic heart) or an unknown virus. Not knowing doesn't help but of course that isn't so unusual as medicine is a less sure science than we would like to believe. The reason I am writing is that the first signs of remission are upon me (touch wood) so that I can bear to switch on the pc and contemplate life beyond lying on my sick bed drinking sweet tea.

But I can't do justice here to all the exciting stuff going on at Hafal, not least the Lights! Camera! ACTION! events and the annual Physical Health Awareness Day (though lordy am I aware of the importance of physical health right now) but instead I will lazily steer you towards our brilliant Facebook presence here which tells you about what we are doing and much more besides - and there's a lot of your feedback too.


In my enforced indolence (and as a distraction from the tests and probing) I have been playing with a machine on the net where you can upload your mugshot and it looks for similar faces. You can find it here.

My best match was Michael Gambon about which I am fairly neutral but Mrs Blog seems quietly satisfied to get Jennifer Ehle. I hope Mr Gambon won't take it the wrong way if I say that he would be lucky to bag Ms Ehle. And indeed I am a lucky man myself...any chance of another cuppa?