Sunday, 5 April 2015

Easter and Eggs, Mental Health Stirrings, Dazzle Ships, and the Re-launch of the Kippford Queen

I have to say last week’s Radio 4 Farming Today was absolutely brilliant. In the week that has Good Friday and the Easter Weekend to look forward to, we were treated to a wonderful eggs related story every morning. I didn't know for example that in the UK we consume a staggering 32 million eggs a day. I also didn't know that goose eggs now cost £9 each or that ostrich eggs, a whopping £30 a go – the latter eggs do feed up to 25 people per egg, so maybe they are value for money. I did know that chickens are healthier more productive and happier when allowed free range with plenty of shrubs and tree cover available to them – I have been keeping my chickens like that for years.

And after many years of nothing changing very much, there is a rustling in the mental health care hedgerow. New targets around the provision of talking therapies require the NHS to provide face-to-face therapy to 75% of patients with 6 weeks and 95% of patients within 18 weeks. Although I am not a big fan of targets per se, I think this is great news as it reinforces the need to recognise that we should treat mental health care in the same way we approach the treatment of physical problems. Scandalous is the word that comes to my mind when thinking about how in the UK we approach mental and physical health.

The authoritative How Mental Health Loses Out in the NHS study (published by the London School of Economics (LSE) in 2012) revealed that for people aged 65 or less, nearly 50% of all ill health was mental ill health. However, only 26% of adults with mental illness receive care compared, for example with diabetes, where 92% of people living with this condition receive treatment and care. Despite a huge investment by the UK government, only 24% of those people with an anxiety or depressive condition are in treatment. So 6-18 weeks is still a long time to wait if someone is feeling depressed.

Possibly waiting times could be a thing of the past for many people with such mental health problems. Human connection, the basis of psychological healing, can be provided using new technology. There are many on-line enabled cognitive behavioural therapy programmes available, and these appear to provide equally good rates of recovery compared to the more traditional and physical face-to-face therapeutic encounters. With such approaches becoming much more acceptable, it should be possible to access an on therapist almost immediately following consultation with say a person’s GP.

Such new responses need to be based upon good evidence of effectiveness. It was therefore very disappointing to read last week of the disparities between funding given over to mental health care compared to that for physical conditions. Approximately just under £10 is invested per person on mental health research compared to over £1500 per person for cancer research for example. However, most funding for mental health research is spent upon underpinning research projects rather than on prevention, or the development of treatments for mental health.

On a lighter note, regular readers and attendees at School Congresses’ will know that one of my other passions (after chickens that is) is surrealism and pop art. So my mind was assailed with yet another treat last week when I was able to catch a live interview with Sir Peter Blake talking about his latest project, turning a Merseyside Ferry the Snow Drop, into a modern day Dazzle Ship. During World War One battleships were painted using the dazzle effect to try and avoid detection by the enemy as the bright and twisty designs made it harder for hostile forces to track the range and speed of our ships. Sir Peter Blake, now an inspirational 83 years old was the artist who created the iconic Sgt Peppers album cover.  

And yesterday I was involved in a re-launch of boat here at the House in Scotland. My builder friend Kevin and his [Chief] engineer friend Davey had decided to rescue a boat abandoned on the beach over two years ago. After Kevin and Davey notified the police of their intention to rescue the boat and a notice placed in the newspaper enquiring about previous owners, work began on getting it sufficiently sea worthy in order to move it off the beach. It was in a sorry state. there was no deck and its wooden hull required much patching.


The boats engine had been taken from a combine harvester and was huge, filling most of the main deck. The engine needed oily rags soaked in diesel and lit with a match to start it. There was a reasonable tide yesterday afternoon and after much shouting, a little swearing and a great deal of sweat, the boat was re-floated and chugged away to a safe inland harbour for the remainder of its renovation. As it slowly and rather majestically sailed passed me on the estuary, I was almost sure I saw Kate Winslet standing by the bow.