Sunday 27 July 2014

Caster and Pollacks 2

Rhys sees me off this morning on an adventure...

There are probably many useful things which could be achieved by cooperation between Hafal's Chief Executive and the Secretary to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Drugs (and eminent social policy consultant) Frank Warburton.

Perhaps a project on dual diagnosis? Or a study of the contrasting devolved and undevolved legislation which affects vulnerable adults?

But I insist that these attractive ideas must be subordinated to the priority of advancing Hafal's and our partners' Let's Get Physical! campaign and instead we decide unselfishly to set a practical example which combines both physical exercise and a healthy diet.

So today we borrow Frank's son's boat in order to paddle out and catch pollack - a sustainable fish apparently (but if we had caught a cod or a bass I wouldn't have put it back)...

Note strict risk assessment adherence - I bought my life-jacket in the Chattanooga Walmart last century and a worried Mrs Blog found it this morning at the bottom of a dusty cupboard...

Paddling nervously out through the surf...

The arrow points to us far out off the Caerfai headland feathering for our prey...

This is of course an "outcomes-based" activity - and here is the proof...

P.S. Longstanding readers with good memories will know that I first used this title for a post in 2011 - see here.

Thursday 24 July 2014

Northern Soul

After a brutally hot night in the Colwyn Bay Travelodge it is a relief to get out this morning and into Coffee Corner, our favourite breakfast haunt on the high street. Alun and I both agree that in view of the heat it would be sensible to eschew a proper breakfast and make do with a piece of toast and a cup of tea.

But the amiable proprietor isn't having any of it and prescribes us the light breakfast pictured above. He's right of course and we are nicely set up for the day.

We are up here for the quarterly North Wales meeting of managers and Trustees which goes well. Great to hear the plans for the Let's Get Physical! campaign motorcade which started its North Wales leg this week and will visit one county each week until early September when it will return south to cover remaining counties there.

We also talked about choice in mental health services (see my last post) - this is the coming thing.

I enjoyed this flatteringly action-packed collage of my times with Hafal which featured on our media...

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Giant Badminton

Did I mention that I was taking the camper with me when I leave?

A good day at the Royal Welsh today with some useful contacts made as well as lots of fun.

It was good to get to know our colleagues from Diverse Cymru better. Alun and I had a really useful conversation with their CEO Charles Willie about personalisation and individual health budgets.

The question is: if individual choice and control is right for clients in social care (indeed direct payments are enshrined in law in Wales under the new Social Services Act) then why not in health?

We need to find a way to do this really well in Wales, learning from the mistakes and the successes in England and elsewhere.

It will come, just a question of when.

In the intense heat this Let's Get Physical!-inspired game of giant badminton with Hafal's events supremo Emma Billings lasted about 30 seconds...

Monday 21 July 2014

My Cup Is Full

Montaigne's Tower

Well, it's been a long run but now it's time to leave the stage. I'm moving on from Hafal to pursue new interests and our excellent Deputy Chief Executive Alun Thomas will take over from 1 December this year: see the full statement below.

Although I still have just over four months to go the announcement of our succession plan has already let me smell the sweet scent of freedom after so many years shackled to PAYE slavery.

Don't get me wrong - I've had an enjoyable, fulfilling and privileged time with Hafal and was lucky to have some decent jobs before that - but there comes a time!

Not that I am retiring - any such idea is anathema to Mrs Blog who is understandably insistent that I have clear plans which don't include pottering around and getting in the way.

I think she should be reassured. I have some longstanding writing projects which can finally be addressed and I will also do some selective consultancy work.

My role model for all this is my old chum Michel de Montaigne, the man who invented the "essay", both the word (essai in French) and the modern practice of writing on topics discursively.

Montaigne gave up public service on his 38th birthday in order to study and write about things which interested him, but he kept his hand in by doing odd jobs for the King of France. That seems about right: I'm 55 but that's probably equivalent to 38 in 16th century France.

He did have the advantage of owning several thousand acres of vineyard plus a castle so I won't be able to copy him in every respect.

His solution to the Mrs Blog challenge was to have his own study and library in a tower of the castle which is a hundred yards around the parapet from the main residential bit of the property. History doesn't relate whether it was the French thinker or Mrs M (sorry, I should say la Dame de Montaigne) who insisted on this arrangement - I'm guessing both of them thought it a good idea.

Montaigne's library - the books have gone but otherwise unchanged

My more modest version is the spare bedroom, although a "man's shed" in the garden is a thought, so long as it was a proper one with a bottle of sherry, a shelf of racy novels and a box of cigars, not one of these modern ones where I would be expected to wring my hands while worrying about my "well-being".

Bill's "Tower" - I got rid of all the reference books and a lot else when the internet took off but they still spread around the house like a paper-pulp pandemic

I will make a pilgrimage to Montaigne's tower at an early opportunity to seek further inspiration and perhaps to sample some of the region's produce (he lived near Bordeaux - I'm sure there must be something they produce around there?).

Here's the full statement:

Following a review over the last six months Hafal is making changes in anticipation of expansion of its activities including the development of a National Recovery Centre with inpatient services. The charity has recently completed purchase of the former Gellinudd Hospital in Pontardawe and is embarking on major works there as well as moving its headquarters to the site.

Meanwhile the charity is restructuring its senior management to meet the challenges ahead. Specifically the charity is merging its two most senior posts into one while developing a small team of senior managers which will include clinical leadership for the new hospital.

As part of an agreed succession plan Hafal’s Chief Executive Bill Walden-Jones is leaving Hafal to pursue new interests and, following a full assessment and interview, Trustees have appointed Deputy Chief Executive Alun Thomas as Chief Executive from 1st December 2014.

Hafal Chair Elin Jones says:-
"We are sorry to see Bill go but he was a strong advocate urging Hafal Trustees to address the need for a restructure and to deliver a planned succession in senior management. It is typical of Bill that after delivering a magnificent first ten years of operation of the independent charity he also wanted to make sure that we got succession right. We are absolutely delighted to appoint Alun in his place and they will work together to ensure a smooth transition."

Bill Walden-Jones says:-
"This is a good result for all concerned, above all Hafal’s Members. I have hugely enjoyed my time at Hafal but after 10 years (nearly 20 if you include the time when we were part of Rethink) I am keen to do new things and I am very optimistic for Hafal’s future under Alun’s tried and tested leadership. I will remain in touch and you won’t find a stronger supporter of this great charity!"

Alun Thomas says:-
"It’s a privilege to follow Bill into this exciting role and I will work hard to ensure the continuing success of the organisation. There will of course be continuity in leadership, specifically the leadership of our mass membership: they will ensure that the organisation sustains its focus on what really matters – delivering hope and practical support to people with a serious mental illness and their carers."

About Alun Thomas:

• Qualified Nurse
• First Class Honours degree in Law
• M.A. in Ethics of Social Welfare
• 4 years managing independent-sector residential services
• 2 years as Hafal’s Programme Manager; 11 years as Hafal’s Deputy Chief Executive
• Direct responsibility for Hafal’s services in the field and their rapid expansion over 10 years
• Spear-headed Hafal’s decisive evidence in Parliament and the National Assembly on the (UK) Mental Health Bill in 2002 and the Welsh Mental Health Measure.

Tuesday 15 July 2014

Doner Summer

Nice one, Darren - but a good policy might be to eat the same number but never doner kebabs and no fries as a side order?

Today the Let’s Get Physical! campaign reached Barry in the Vale of Glamorgan in this gorgeous summer weather. Service users and carers in the Vale have two top tips:-

1. Carers: get a Carer’s Assessment

"Getting a Carer’s Assessment is probably the one of the best opportunities you get to address your physical health needs," says Peter Morgan, a carer from the Vale. "I’m glad this campaign is looking at the physical health of carers as well as the people we care for. It can be difficult to get the chance to look after your health properly when you’re a carer. We need more control in our lives and we need to be more demanding of services."

Junaid Iqbal, a member of the Service User and Carer Panel leading the campaign, said: "Most carers have a legal right to an assessment of their needs – and they should use the assessment to discuss any issues with their physical health. There are a number of support organisations which can help and the Assessment will identify these and action the support required. Remember: if you don’t ask, you don’t get!"

2. Service users: get on the Exercise Referral Scheme

At today’s event visitors also had the opportunity to get information on the Exercise Referral Scheme in the Vale which provides a range of activities to help people become more active.

Louise, who has lost five-and-a-half stone in under two years, said: "This is a great scheme and more people should make use of it.

"People with a mental illness can be referred to the Scheme by their doctors to improve their lifestyles. They take part in activities run by the Vale Council’s exercise referral team for about four months and can also use the Vale’s leisure centres at a discounted rate.

"At the end the professionals discuss how they can continue to achieve their health goals by making exercise a key part of their day-to-day lives. So it’s a practical, long-term way to achieve better health."

Monday 14 July 2014

Mw Mw Me Me Cwac Cwac

This year we'll be showcasing service user and carer-led campaign Let's Get Physical!

Join us next week for a chance to:

• Get a FREE health check in the Let’s Get Physical! Mobile Health Centre.

• Learn more about Hafal and our work by browsing our websites and social media pages in our new mobile Learning Bus.

• Find out more about our exciting new Recovery Centre and the innovative work we are doing with mental health carers in Wales.

I am aiming to go on Wednesday 23 July - see you there?

The Learning Bus - kindly donated by Unison (Aneurin Bevan Health Branch)


George Carey - wrong on this one

Hard cases make bad law: nowhere so true as in the matter of assisted suicide.

There are a tiny number of cases where articulate individuals with severe physical illnesses argue the injustice of not being able to get other people to kill them or actively help them to kill themselves. Of course it is hard not to be sympathetic in some of these cases and that is part of the problem. Former Archbishop George Carey admits that his view was swayed by individual cases. As a longstanding law-maker in the House of Lords he should know better.

It was obviously right that the UK reformed the law on suicide in 1961 so that it was no longer an offence to try to take your own life. But they were also right to ensure that this reform did not imply that suicide was an acceptable practice in law - hence the clarity that other people must not assist.

For some religious people this is a clear matter because they see life as sacrosanct, something which takes precedence over any pragmatic considerations in a small number of cases. But as in some other instances religious tradition reflects sensible ethical and practical arguments which apply today.

Legalising assisted suicide would not just result in a change of practice in a confined number of cases: it would create a vast ambiguity about the value of life and wholly compromise the medical profession. It would also inevitably bring out those ghouls who revel in death and want to play a part in taking lives.

Above all it would send a wrong message to people who are unsure about the point of their lives - including many people with a serious mental illness - and make it more difficult for those of us who actively want to prevent suicide. We need the unambiguous support of society in asserting that taking your own life is never the right option. How can we say that if the government approves giving help to people to commit suicide?

The enormous tragedy of so many people with a mental illness taking their own lives is far more significant than the small number of cases where assisted suicide might seem compassionate.

Friday 11 July 2014

Soccer Masterclass


Goalie Jasper Cillessen loses Holland the World Cup Semi-Final as Argentina's Maxi Rodrigues hammers home the winning penalty in the shoot-out...


Your correspondent adopts the classic posture to defend against Swansea City's £1,000,000 striker (and former beau of Atomic Kitten Liz McClarnon) Lee Trundle's spot-kick - the picture catches that moment when the coiled spring is about to be released...

Cynics who attended our major Let's Get Physical! event (see last post) may quibble that actually Lee's penalty did go into the back of the net. But that is simply because I "went the wrong way", a hazard for even the most legendary keepers.

Management Metaphors

Leading from the front

I am slowly recovering from yesterday's mammoth Let's Get Physical! event - most particularly the tug-of-war as you can see.

This was the BIG ONE: over 200 service users, carers and health professionals from across South Wales got physical at Hafal’s annual Physical Health Day in Swansea University Sports Centre. This year the event formed a part of the summer-long, service user and carer-led Let’s Get Physical! campaign which is supported by Hafal, Bipolar UK, the Mental Health Foundation and Diverse Cymru.

Swansea City Club Ambassador Lee Trundle and Assembly Member Bethan Jenkins presented prizes at the event and a host of exhibitors provided advice and information on getting healthy.

Richard Timm, a service user at Hafal Swansea, told us: "It’s been an absolutely fantastic day, loads of fun and a great opportunity to take part in sports and activities. There’s been something for everyone.

"It’s a great idea to have this day because it gets people into sports who may never have thought of taking part in physical activities."

We do this event every year but it had extra significance this time as we are running the campaign which sets a challenge – both to service users and carers, and to service providers and policy makers – to radically improve the physical health of people with a mental illness and their carers.

The Physical Health Day is one of the highlights of the summer-long campaign because it provides opportunities to try different activities and get advice about living a healthier life.

Activities at yesterday's event included track and field sports, nordic walking, yoga, five-a-side football and tug-of-war. Exhibitors included BikeAbility Wales, Stop Smoking Wales, Public Health Wales, the National Centre for Mental Health, plus our partners in the Campaign Diverse Cymru, the Mental Health Foundation and Bipolar UK.

Working in close conjunction with Trustees (in this case a sporting Gerald Cole)

Being prepared to try out new ideas, however absurd they may appear to be (and turn out to be)...

But that's enough facile management metaphors!

Sunday 6 July 2014

Jacques Cousteau

I've just had a week off down west where I demonstrated a near-saintly devotion to Let's Get Physical! principles, having:

brought all the salad we needed from the garden...

fished for my supper...

(actually I only caught a small mackerel - and that was foul-hooked - but think of the hours of valuable exercise casting and reeling in assorted feathers, spinners and rag-worm)

I also explored ze mysterieuse under-zea vorld in all eets glorieuse majesty...

(a top tip for gentlemen snorkellers which Jacques Cousteau never told you - your mask leaks if you wear it having not shaved for a few days).

I also combed the local beaches - here is a blue jellyfish I found...

... and I looked it up when I got back and the correct name of this species for those interested is the "blue jellyfish".

And I did some cycling too.

But I didn't - couldn't - walk very far...

I have been suffering for a while now from something called Plantar Fasciitis which is Latin for a painful heel caused by bruising the tendon under your foot.

No, I didn't know I had a tendon there either (it reminds me of when the garage told me my "steering rack", something I had never heard of, was broken and would cost £300 to replace. No, I was told patiently, you can't drive around without one).

It's quite a common ailment and frequently affects people who are over-weight but quite active - i.e. walk a lot.

This sounds like a dilemma or, better word, a challenge: either I lose weight and remain active or I stay this weight and accept that I can't walk very far. It may not be that stark because the heel thing can clear up - but I feel I should heed this painful warning.

A reminder that we all, often in quite individual ways, need to take seriously the underlying importance of Let's Get Physical! and recognise that diet, exercise, and generally looking after your health are closely linked.

But none of it is worthwhile if you do not also enjoy your life (note that I said near-saintly)...

Saturday 5 July 2014

Boxing Clever

Monmouth M.P. David Davies juggling dextrously. I knew he was a boxer but maybe it's just as well he didn't show us that skill!

Healthy eating was on the menu at our Let’s Get Physical! event in Monmouthshire last week. Visitors had the opportunity to sample a range of healthy food at the event, which took place at Waitrose Abergavenny; meanwhile the mobile health centre offered health checks to visitors and there was a physical fitness expert on hand to provide advice on becoming more active.

Cheryl Pope, a Carer in Monmouthshire, said: "Talking about healthy food is important and will help me and my family to consider what we eat on a daily basis.

"Healthy food doesn’t need to be expensive or bland. I have been having great fun looking in recipe books to find new ways of using good value for money ingredients in different ways. Next on my agenda is to be more physical. Thank you Hafal for highlighting these issues."

Junaid Iqbal, a member of the Service User and Carer Panel leading the campaign, said: "It’s not about living on salads. It’s about eating a range of foods to make sure our bodies are receiving all the energy and nutrients they need. There’s a lot of finger-wagging when it comes to dieting and healthy eating and we are avoiding that. The important message it that the occasional cream cake or bacon roll is fine as long as it’s balanced with plenty of fruit and veg as part of a sensible diet."

Peter Martin, Hafal’s Head of Public Affairs, said: "Healthy eating – like exercise – can be important for people with a serious mental illness because of the side-effects of medication. Some antipsychotic medications, for example, may contribute to obesity or leave the patient feeling sedated. The campaign will provide key tips on how to counter this."