Monday, 24 October 2011
I have been putting together the newsletter for an organisation called “Making Involvement Matter in Essex” (MIME) and I wrote two pieces. The first piece is my regular column and the second is a call-to-arms for mental health service users to get more involved in their care. I was asked to savagely cut a huge chunk from the former and remove the latter completely. This has pissed me off to some extent so I have decided to put the two pieces here on my blog so that you, dear reader, can help me work out what the Hell is wrong with the pieces.
The only thing I have removed from the first piece is the name of a fellow service user as it would be wrong to identify him in a public forum such as this without his permission.
I have the privilege to have been voted as Chair of the Service User Advisory Group for the third year of the MIME Project with the added bonus of having a new partner in crime in the shape of _____ _________. I know from past experience that it is always important to have someone to help shoulder the burden that comes with being in a position of some authority and I welcome the opportunity to build the foundations of a sustainable project with my new colleague.
MIME has a lot of work ahead in the coming months but some of us in the SUAG are looking into the future as well by forming a new sub-committee that will be looking at a long-term strategy for the future of MIME. Some people may look upon this as putting the cart before the horse and that we are merely setting ourselves up for a major disappointment but I say that we should try to think in a bit more of a positive way. As a community of mental health service users and carers, we have stumbled so much in our lives that we have let our eyes drift downwards to where we are stepping in case we should stumble yet again. In doing so we no longer see the beautiful horizon that is the future and see the possibilities that the future can offer us if only we have the courage to reach out and grab them. It is up to us whether there is to be a future for MIME and that is why the Strategic Planning & Development sub-committee has been formed, to plan for the future we hope will come.
We have seen projects come and go over the years but there has never been a project as innovative and successful as MIME. Never before has a service user and carer involvement project broken down the barriers between service users and the commissioners to such an extent that the dialogue has become one of collaboration rather than confrontation. Perhaps I am just a dreamer of wonderful dreams or perhaps I am a poor deluded fool to have such high hopes but I know one thing for sure – I am not going to take my eyes off the wonderful horizon.
Until next time…
Chair of the
In these times of economic uncertainty, it is important for service users and service providers to work in a collaborative way to achieve better results for their recovery. Service users can no longer afford to be passive recipients of mental health care but must become active participants in that care, taking a proactive approach in formulating their care plan in collaboration with their care coordinator and other mental health professionals. Sitting at home feeling sorry for oneself is not a productive use of one’s time and can be extremely harmful. The care service users receive is only as good as the input they themselves put into helping build the right care plan. Yes, mental health professionals have a duty to provide the best care they can but service users have to accept some responsibility too. Mental health professionals may seem to have very little time for service users these days but that is due more to the amount of paperwork they have to fill in for each client than a disregard for them. Indeed, up to 70-80% of a professional’s time is taken up with administrative duties, leaving very little time to do the duties for which they trained for so long. This situation is complete and utter madness especially in the era of swingeing cuts in which we live that has resulted in increasing numbers of administrative staff losing their jobs. A bit of collaborative work could go a long way to helping ease this crisis by making the service user take ownership of a certain amount of their care needs in the form of some kind of self-help whilst being supported by the statutory services.
The use of collaborative work and service user ownership in their care is only one of the ways in which the mental health service could be improved. Another improvement can also be achieved with service user and mental health professional collaboration by working together to force the Department of Health to cut down the amount of documentation that professionals have to fill in and the unnecessary duplication of effort in recording the information on multiple systems, none of which are compatible, which results in less time dealing with patient needs.
The mental health service providers are, by no means, blameless in some of the areas of poor provision with gaps in services, poor continuity of care and a blasé attitude in areas where there may be only one organisation providing all the services, but is it any wonder that there are long waiting lists and the impression that professionals are uncaring when their time is taken up with administration? Yes, there has to be a certain amount of record keeping concerning service users but does it really need to take up so much of a professional’s time? Why are the health and social care computer systems purchased with no thought given to buying compatible systems so that duplication is eradicated?
At the moment, there is still a rather ‘them and us’ relationship between mental health staff and their clients when we should actually be working together to increase the chances of recovery for the service users, reduce unnecessary paperwork and duplication of effort involved in recording cases, and getting the professionals back to doing the job they actually want to do – helping people improve their mental well-being.