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.

Ismail Dogan – how the mental health services failed

I have set up an urgent meeting with the mental health trust following the publication of an independent investigation into the dreadful case of a paranoid schizophrenic who killed one and seriously injured four others in 2004.

The report by NHS London into the care provided to Ismail Dogan shows gross failings – both in community mental health care and an inability on the part of the Trust to make sure lessons were learnt.

It is another appalling tale of inadequacy and incompetence and worse in Haringey. Baby P was failed by Haringey Council and Haringey Primary Care Trust (PCT), and here we have the third of the trilogy – the Mental Health Trust.

In fact, in this case it looks like the cover-up, the secrecy and the closing ranks were even worse. The internal investigation into the tragedy was not even circulated to staff and middle managers across the Barnet, Enfield & Haringey Mental Health Trust, or Haringey PCT, so that pepole could learn from the incident and avoid it happening again.

The report also shows that Mr Dogan’s Psychiatric Nurse amended his notes after the incident to make out his care to be more comprehensive than it actually was. The community mental health team, who managed Mr Dogan’s care in the community, was also shown to have failed providing ongoing care, which was a direct contributor to the 2004 incident.

On top of hiding the internal investigation report it is equally worrying that the Trust’s community health team was not up to scratch in 2004. Particularly so as we are currently being asked in a consultation at the moment our views on the proposed closure of an acute mental health ward at St Ann’s in favour of care in the community. This would be an absolute disaster in my view – given the state of the care currently

You should not have to move out of Haringey to get proper mental health care

A woman came to my surgery last week (obviously cannot go into detail) but I wanted to place in public the utter poverty of treatment and support for those suffering from mental health issues and their families in Haringey.

Services just seem to diminish and diminish endlessly. The ward at St Ann’s where you can be admitted as an emergency is not suitable for many of those admitted due to an episode of one sort or another – for example an episode for someone with a long-term bipolar condition.

Such a person needs to be taken in – but where they are placed is so important. Currently 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.

There is virtually no continuity in mental health care. Senior managers were not in the slightest bit interested in helping him move elsewhere where there was a doctor who had been dealing with him and with whom he felt comfortable. They just kept passing him on – and on – and on – from one to another. There was virtually no patient engagement.

And there is no support for his wife – the woman who came to me for help. Nobody helped her when her husband was threatening suicide. And there has been a complete lack of care for him outside of the hospital. Where they have now moved to – psychiatric nurses come to the house. In Haringey, when the threats of suicide were at there worst – all my constituent got was advice from social workers who suggested that he drink some warm milk before bed.

They have moved and now get much better care and the husband is vastly improved. You should not have to move out of Haringey to get proper mental health care. Yes – I will be raising this with the new Chair of the Mental Health Trust and the PCT when I meet with them shortly.

It is an utter disgrace – and if this was your or my loved one – we would be up in arms. I hope this new Chair wants to hear what I have to say – because this is not acceptable. And if the Government say – it’s the local PCT and Mental Health Trust who are responsible – and if the PCT and local mental Health Trust say it is the Government – I think that will demonstrate pretty conclusively that the system we have to protect us and provide our local health services stinks!

Visiting St Ann's

Go to St Ann’s Hospital to celebrate its Lordship Ward becoming the 300th ward of the national ‘Star Wards’ project. David Lammy (MP for Tottenham) is on the visit too.

We start by meeting Marion Janner. Marion is a service user from Haringey and is a vocal campaigner and mover on the Star Wards project. This is a national project started to begin to address one of the great challenges of mental health care – that on an inpatient ward the boredom is enough to drive you to madness. It is totally counterproductive to a therapeutic outcome – and so Star Wards begins to address some of those challenges.

St Ann’s is only at the beginning of its program to generate and implement Star Wards – but judging by the enthusiasm of both staff and patients that I met this will deliver real improvement. I also visited the ‘healthy living’ part of the equation and met patient and trainer in the gym.

St Ann’s has had a difficult recent history in terms of administration at higher echelons – but as they move towards their application for ‘foundation status’ with their new Chair, Michael Fox (who I met later in the day at Parliament – coincidentally) they have hopefully moved onward and upward. And there certainly was a very positive attitude around the wards and the patients and the potential.

Two notes of discord did surface. The first was a desperate plea for me to tell the Government that they don’t want, and can’t cope with, endless new initiatives. They feel that they are barely given time to get a new directive in place and begin to embed it – before it is changed and the next headline initiative rolls in – and it’s all change, thereby never reaching a point of proper implementation and smooth running.

The second was about the service provided by the crisis centre – which deals with emergencies. The problems ranged from being answered by an answerphone (not great if you are suicidal) to being told to ‘pull yourself together’.

As I said, later in the day, I met with the new Chair of the Mental Health Trust who seems very determined to turn St Ann’s into a modern and exemplar service deliverer. There will be a need to sell around half the site to fund the new building etc. My criteria – as I told him – was about what would be provided post development, how real and thorough the consultation would be (we are sick of faux consultations) and so on. St Ann’s is not a great layout for a hospital – but it is friendly and human scale. So – we will see how all this develops over the next period.