In a packed council chamber at Stockport Town Hall the full extent of the threat to Mental Health Services not only in Stockport, but across the country became very apparent. A wide cross section of unions, health workers, campaign and service users all revealed a service already at crisis point after years of under funding and teetering on the brink of a disaster such at as unfolded in Mid Staffordshire.
Given this fragile situation and a 16% rise in those needing crisis help it is unimaginable that the government is actually ordering local health authorities to impose an 8% cut next month followed by a further 25% next year and that they are complying.
Karen Reissman told how “there are days and days when there are simply no mental health beds available in England – anywhere”, with 1700 MH beds already having been closed in the last 2 years.
Mind reported people being turned away from A and E. Children are being placed on adult mental health wards, people waiting 8 months for treatment and bed occupancy rates of 138%. Both patients and health staff all told of staff cuts and less time spent with patients at a time of rapidly increasing demand.
An increase in the use of the private sector was reported at great expense to the NHS, with patients from Manchester being sent around the country as far as Kent. It is not hard to see how detrimental this further isolation from carers and familiar environments, could be to those who already struggling with their condition and risks further crisis developing. The Care Quality Commission is investigating the quality of care that is being privately provided.
Paul Foley (Head of Health for Unison North West) spoke of the willingness to embrace new technology and working practises but emphasised that these systems had to be in place and physical beds are still needed. Fearing a resurgence of “Care in the Community” whereby some of the most vulnerable members of society are simply abandoned.
These cuts would increase pressure on community services such as drug and alcohol, but these are not being increased to cope, but simply cut back as well. One social worker reported her department already slashed. The threshold for eligibility for treatment is being raised and unlike other conditions which have targets such as 2 weeks for cancer, there are no limits to how long those with mental health problems can be left waiting. Local carers groups, set up as secondary support services, reported being left alone with no professional support to deal with complex medical conditions.
There were some 50,000 people sectioned or detained during 2012-2013 and as care and treatment is removed the numbers coming into contact with the police rises. the pilot scheme to station mental health nurses at police stations announced earlier this year seems superficially a good idea, though the suspicious amongst you may wonder if this just provides easier pickings for the private sector, a similar court diversion system has been in place for years. The conspiratorial amongst you may even be having visions of the beginnings of a Kafkaesque social engineering structure to ensure our mental hygiene and compliance. Most would agree that the 25 million could of been better spent on providing the treatment needed, when and where it was really needed – long before people reach crisis point and come into contact with the police. (Anyone know who picked up the contract for this ?) It may well identify need but then where is the capacity in the system for the treatment.
The second half of the meeting was opened up for contributions:
There was unanimous praise for Unison for organising the meeting but also some criticism for it having been absent for so long. Labour also attracted criticism for its introduction of targets, internal markets and PFI schemes and the absence of Shadow Health Minister Andrew Glyn
“Do you want to represent the people or do you want to represent Labour – People are dying – Unison must fight” shouted from the back of the room.
Perhaps mental health in particular illustrates why the dogmatic application of lean manufacturing business processes, which maybe of worth in the manufacturing of cars, is simply incompatible with providing health services. One nurse spoke of her unease at being only judged a good nurse if she met a target but not if she stayed with someone in crisis for 4 hours. This is not to say that services should not be run efficiently or change for the better, but that they must be designed, run and where necessary defended by those who understand healthcare.
The sociopathic application of a – do more and more with less and less culture, while people suffer and die is simply not acceptable. The lie of austerity exposed by the 2 Billion under spend returned to the treasury. People with mental health problems simply do not fit into the industrialised manufacturing processes being forced upon our NHS by greedy corporations and corrupt governance. The insidious propaganda campaign to deceive and manufacture the consent of the public is increasing being seen through. We deserve better.
Unison promised that this was not just a one off meeting that would fade away and that they are here for as long as it takes. They have booked a room at Stockport Town Hall for the 1st Wednesday of every month starting on 2nd April at 6.00pm
If you are a patient or carer of someone who could be affected by the closure of mental health beds by Greater Manchester West (Bolton,Salford and Trafford) a judicial review case is being put together. If you would like to be part of this joint action (there will be no costs to you) please get in touch with us at Keep Our NHS Public Greater Manchester