Time to talk

Last week was ‘Time to Talk’ week run by Mind and Rethink as part of their campaign to end mental health stigma.

The Time to Talk campaign encouraged everyone to take 5 minutes to have a conversation about mental health.

Ordinary people are the drivers for change – and telling people how you feel, or listening to someone, can make a huge difference.

Mental health is too important to fall off the agenda. One in four will have a mental health condition at some point in our lives – so all of us will know someone affected.

The most recent statistics for Haringey show over 8,000 people have been diagnosed with depression. The real figure is likely to be much higher.

Lib Dems will stamp out the mental health stigmaFor decades mental health was pushed aside in favour of physical health. Successive governments let the stigma continue, and none of them tried to break down the barriers to treatment.

When the Lib Dems entered Government, we were determined to change this. We’re providing £400 million more for talking therapies, £54 million for children’s mental health, and £1.2 million in staff training.

Perhaps most importantly we’re introducing ‘parity of esteem’ for mental health. This means that mental health must now be given the same priority – fixed waiting times etc – as physical health.

The stigma around mental health must end, and that’s why the Lib Dems in Government will always make sure that mental health is given the attention it deserves.

Breaking news – £23.5 million for local health services

Great news! Haringey’s health services are getting an extra £23.5 million this year – following our local fairer funding campaign.

It’s a massive 5% increase from last year, and it’s a huge step towards getting truly fair funding for our local services, residents, and health workers.

Take a look at this short video – featuring residents, midwives, a new mum and me. It’s about why I started the campaign, and the impact the extra money will have!

Thank you to everyone who supported the campaign for fairer funding. You can see from the video just how much it means.

And it won’t stop here – I’ll keep campaigning for more money, and the Lib Dems have pledged £8bn in NHS funding during the next parliament. 

Funding for Haringey health services rises by £23.5 million

Haringey’s health services – such as G.P.s, hospitals and walk-in centres – will receive an extra £23.5 million in funding this year.

The new funding, which is distributed to boroughs by NHS England, is a 5% rise from Haringey’s previous allocation.

This means that Haringey’s health services have received an extra £30 million in total since local MP Lynne Featherstone started her campaign for fairer health funding in 2012 – backed by over 500 local residents.

The increase also follows the extra £2 billion given to the NHS by the Coalition Government in the Autumn Statement last year.

The MP for Hornsey and Wood Green has welcomed the rise in funding – but has also said she will continue to push for even more money for local services.

Commenting, Lynne Featherstone MP said:

“I am delighted with the huge rise in funding for our local health services. The money will help our hard-working health professionals, and hopefully reduce waiting times and improve care for local residents.

“I’d like to thank the hundreds of residents who supported the campaign for fairer funding. Haringey health services now have more money – and we’re much closer to having the same funding levels as neighbouring boroughs like Camden and Islington.

“But there is still more that can be done – and I will keep putting the case forward for even more money for local health services – particularly our mental health services.”

Lynne Featherstone visits Eating Disorders Unit at St Ann’s Hospital

Lynne Featherstone MP recently met with patients and staff at the Eating Disorders Unit at St Ann’s Hospital.

The eating disorder service is a highly specialised branch of mental health which is focused on treating patients suffering severe weight loss through conditions such as anorexia and bulimia. It provides services to patients from across north London and Essex and also provides specialist in-patient services from across the country.

St Ann’s is located in Lynne Featherstone’s Hornsey and Wood Green constituency.

The Liberal Democrat MP discussed the service with Maria Kane, Chief Executive of Barnet, Enfield and Haringey Mental Health NHS Trust, and with Dr Eric Johnson-Sabine who is one of the UK’s leading experts on eating disorders. She also met with other staff from the service and with some of the patients.

Lynne Featherstone MP comments:

“I was truly inspired by the visit. It was fascinating to hear of the excellent and pioneering work that the team are doing at the service. I was also glad to hear directly from some of the patients about their experiences with the service.”

Mental health consultation update

Following up the issue in my earlier post, I met with the Chief Exec and the Chair of Haringey Mental Health Trust this morning to discuss some of the issues raised from my advice surgeries, from my meetings with service users and organisations, from colleagues and from local people’s responses to my request for personal experiences of mental health services in Haringey.

The Trust closes its consultation next Monday on keeping permanently closed an acute ward that was flooded – permanently reducing inpatient bed capacity. The plan is to move people appropriately out of inpatient care into the community, supported by appropriate support to maintain patient safely in a stable and home setting.

An early question on the survey asks people whether they agree with the principle of looking after people in their own home as opposed to being kept in not the nicest of environments in an inpatient mental health ward. I would think that the majority of people will agree with this in principle – but it is the practicalities that are crucial and can sink the idea.

So of course we would all like to be fluffy, cuddly, let people live in their own homes – but there are a lot of buts. Buts such as …

But only if we never hear that someone couldn’t be admitted in an emergency or just prior to a crisis incident because there were no beds available. I can’t see how this can be the case if beds are reduced. The Chair and CEO said that Haringey had a high bed capacity compared to other boroughs. Users of the service tell me otherwise, talking of occasions where a patient would be sent home early because there was no capacity or where a crisis admission did not take place for between four days and four weeks because of shortage of space. Surely that does not suggest that capacity is adequate?

But only if we can be assured that care in the community is not just code for abandonment or poor support. Again, people who use the service have given me lots of instances where the home treatment team fell short. For example – the team will come once a day to ensure proper medication is taken. However, my service user describes the team as coming and when the door isn’t answered – going away without even contacting the housing manager to be let in and check what’s happened to the person. The Trust says that this is serious and shouldn’t happen – but the problem is the gap between what should happen and what does happen.

But what about the possible costs and fallout for neighbours, the police and the council if things go wrong? When the Trust says that it is cheaper to keep people in the community rather than the high costs of inpatient care – doubt whether they are counting in the cost to everyone else who is left to deal with the fall out when the care in the community fails. And the fallout isn’t just about finances when things go wrong.

There are many tales of gaps fallen through in the community care net as it is now. So how can the Trust guarantee that the care will be good enough to support even more people than before? The Chair says that the money not spent on inpatients will mean that the expenditure in the community will be enough to ensure good care. Easy promise to make, but will it stack up in reality?

There is also a belief gap in Haringey. In Haringey we do not have confidence in inspection regimes, tick-box procedures and management speak. We had all that only too recently with Baby P. How on earth can we get to a point of trust with the Trust?

There are loads more issues (lack of communication, lack of planning on transfer, 24 hour emergency line not working properly and on and on) and so will post my official response to the consultation when have finished it as it will contain more detail.

Both the Chair and the CEO wanted me to know that whilst some areas definitely need improving – they are very good at some things and have just won the commission for cognitive therapy for London. Indeed, I visited their Star Wards project when they won one of those. And given the dreadful years the Mental Health Trust had under the previous chair and management, these two have an awful lot to achieve and I am sure are trying very hard to bring about change in what is quite a stuck environment – not easy.

So – my consultation response will still focus heavily on the problems currently being experienced in terms of crisis admission with current bed capacity – and on the already stretched and reportedly unreliable care in the community. Without addressing these issues – I don’t see how the Trust can proceed.

Sheer madness

Here’s my latest Ham & High column:

A woman came to see me recently to tell me of the appalling state of Haringey’s mental health services. Her husband is bi-polar and sometimes suicidal. From time to time he has to be admitted to the acute ward at St Ann’s – our local mental health facility.

She says the ward is enough to make you want to kill yourself. It is a ward with psychotic and highly disturbed patients. If you or I were placed in such a ward – we would be frightened – as was my constituent’s partner. He was so frightened he could not sleep at all due to the noise and disturbances from the other patients throughout the night – and of course these conditions hardly assist recovery or state of mind.

And when he’s at home and there are troubles – the theoretically 24-hour help is often on answerphone – and when not, she has even been advised just to give her husband warm milk! What a contrast with Camden, where – if you need help – a psychiatric nurse will come to your house to deal with the situation – and perhaps remove the need for admission to hospital.

To add insult to injury – with so many vulnerable people who need so much help – the Mental Health Trust is now proposing to reduce the number of acute beds at St Ann’s Hospital for those who do need admission. It may be unsuitable for some admissions – but it is all we have and we need a place of safety for those who are in acute crisis.

I am meeting with the Chair and Chief Executive and will point out how for many people, these beds are often the last resort. Acute wards are, even in St Ann’s, a place where a severely ill person is surrounded by professional nurses and doctors – even though the circumstances are clearly not ideal.

Haringey residents come to my advice surgeries to tell me how they have not been able to get their loved partner / child / parent admitted into an acute ward – despite obvious need. Of course each case has its own particular circumstances, but from questions I have asked in Parliament, it is clear that there are more people to each bed in Haringey than for almost any other area in London – and that’s before the proposed closures.

The Trust claims that people in acute need can be dealt with adequately in the community. I do welcome more support in the community, but in moments of crisis there must be the option for a higher degree of care and supervision.

And unless the care in the community is exemplary, then reducing beds in the in-patient facility we have seems mad. We should be investing in making the acute wards better – not reducing beds. My own angst is that the Trust is in such a state it is making these reductions for cost purposes rather than meeting the needs of those with mental health issues in Haringey.

The Trust is currently consulting on the issue – so now is the time for us to have our say. I am keen to hear your views, particularly if you have any direct experience of our local mental health services, so I can feed them into the consultation. You can write to me at lynne@lynnefeatherstone.org or House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA. Please indicate whether you wish for your views to be treated confidentially or if you are happy for me to share them with the Trust.

The consultation deadline is the 23rd March, so please make sure that I get your views before then. If you want to find out a bit more about the consultation, have a look at the Trust’s website.

Also, my Liberal Democrat colleague Councillor Ron Aitken is chairing a scrutiny review at Haringey Council on the proposals – two public meetings are planned . The first was on Monday 2nd March but the next is on Wednesday 25th March at 6pm at Haringey Civic Centre. Please do come along and share your views.

All too often mental health is treated as the Cinderella service of the NHS and rarely gets the prominence or the resources it needs and deserves. I am determined that this should not be the case in our Borough.