Local Mental Health Services at Risk.

At the Pathways Group on 10th April, we were asked to give our views of what was good and what could be improved in our local mental health services. This was done because, with the government's impetus to "decentralise" in the name of David Cameron's nebulous "big society", services are facing some radical changes. Staff wanted to know, then, what we had found helpful and what not, perhaps in a bid to show those in charge just how valued some aspects of our local services are, as they are facing the possibility of some enormous cuts in spending.
It seems that the coalition want to devolve power from central government and put it in the hands of citizens. But, is this really just a positive sounding spin to detract from the fact that services are going to be cut? Indeed, as nurse Jane Lord put it in our meeting on Tuesday, "in other words, you're going to have to do it yourselves".
Phil (a member of our group and also chair of our local North Staffs Users Group) told us that many of the beds at our local resource units were going to be lost, and even that some of the units themselves were at risk of closure. This is a great blow for many service users, as time and time again it emerges that these beds are amongst the most valued by patients because they provide a sort of intermediary service between hospital and the community. Even in our little meeting, it became apparent that the beds at the resource centres had been an invaluable help in the recovery of many. But, as money has to be saved, it seems, such things may soon be lost.
The government is trying to make this sort of thing palatable by saying that services should essentially change from a model based on inpatient care to one based more in the community. The impetus for more community based care was originally brought about, I believe in the late '50s, by human and civil rights campaigns in an attempt to get rid of old-style Victorian asylums and reduce stigma. Indeed, as Clinical Lead Nurse Janet Sigley told us, this new shake-up of services may be as wrenching as when places such as our local St. Edward's Hospital closed down and "care in the community" became the new watchword. She went on to say that staff do care about their patients and that we will still have a service, but that it is, at present, uncertain what form that service will take. So, to my mind, it's as if the cuts are being dressed up as something positive for service users, when in fact all they will mean is less resources for an already over-burdened service.
The fact is that this so-called devolution of power to the masses is actually having the opposite of its intended effect. Speaking for myself, it doesn't make me feel as if I'm suddenly in charge of my own destiny, but rather somewhat powerless in the face of the machinations of government. Stoke-on-Trent is already what I would call a deprived area, and yet we seem to be having to deal with greater cuts to our local services than many other places.
With this constant attack on services which are there for the most poor and vulnerable in our society, it is difficult not to begin to see things in a purely Marxist way, and in a poster which appeared before his election to power, David Cameron's face is shown next to the slogan, "I'll cut the deficit, not the NHS", which surely demonstrates that, if nothing else, the coalition lied its way in to Number 10. Indeed, if mental health services were a patient themselves, they'd probably be put on the "at risk" register.


Dixie said…
Hi David.
This is the same scenario going on world-over. How can so many world leaders be so wrong at the same time? Shouting, "cut, cut, cut," yet the people have been bleeding for years, now.
I sincerely hope your community is able and willing to meet the challenge. It gives new meaning to the phrase, "it takes a village to raise a child."
Interesting post.
Peace, Dixie
bazza said…
Hello David: I read this earlier and didn't know what to say. Now Dixie has eloquently put my thoughts into words so I will simply endorse her comments!
Click here for Bazza’s Blog ‘To Discover Ice’
David said…
Dear Dixie,
Yes, it does appear that our economic collapse is virtually global.
In Britain, the "attacks" on our most valued services seem to be becoming more pointed. My friend at the Pathways group revealed an interesting statistic to me, namely that far more money is lost through tax evasion than things like benefit fraud, and yet it is those at the lower end of the economic scale who are targeted by the government and media, and used as scapegoats for our economic woes. One understands that money somehow has to be saved, but the consistent targeting of the most poor and vulnerable just smacks of unfairness and prejudice against them.
I'm sure we will get through this challenge, but rest assured we will also make our views heard and fight back.
Thanks, Dixie.
Very Best Wishes,
David said…
Dear bazza,
Yes, such things do seem to leave one at a loss for words. And, I sincerely hope that if this carries on, this government will not be in power for much longer.
Very Best Wishes,
klahanie said…
Dear David,
A very thought provoking and most alarming post. You've covered a lot here and you will know that I echo the sentiments alluded to in your article.
On a side note, after I talked to you, I had a chat with a friend with a named genetic mental health condition. He was in a terrible state because his GP has been told to reduce his medication by half according to some ill-advised government agenda. He fears that he may have a major relapse and burden the NHS' depleting funds by needing to go back into care. A most worrying conversation I had with him.
And I've noted, on another side note to your informative article, that it is now very difficult to make an appointment with my GP. They now have it set up that you have to phone at eight on a Monday morning and they book appointments in two week allotments. I used to be able to make an appointment so easily. Now it has become a bureaucratic nightmare. Sorry about the added rant. The sooner we get rid of this evil coalition government, the better.
With best wishes to you, Gary
David said…
Dear Gary,
Yes, it is alarming and worrying. The situations you have noted arising would also seem to be cause for concern.
And I couldn't agree more with you that the sooner this government is out of power, the better.
Wishing you all the best,

Popular Posts