Sunday, 30 July 2017

Planting 'idea seeds' for improving mental health care

Once upon a time I would read every one of Roy Lilley’s blog postings. He is a very insightful commentator on health and social care in the UK. He is a very successful leader, educationalist and a great public speaker, and he is much in demand. I think over the past few months, as the Black Dog of depression began to be my companion I got out of the habit of regularly reading his work. I began to find the somewhat acerbic and negative narrative, often aimed at politicians and health service managers, wearying. However, I am sure my decision was influenced by where I found myself in the world, not really a consequence of Roy’s writing, which is much admired by many.

One of whom is Warren Heppolette. He is the Executive Lead for Strategy and System Development at the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership (GMHSC). It is the GMHSC Partnership, made up of NHS Organisations and Councils, that is leading the £6 billion devolution of health and social care budgets in making a difference to health and wellbeing in the city and region. They are doing a great job and are moving at a pace – and are starting to provide some excellent examples of what integrated care and population health could look like.

So when someone like Warren tweets that he thought one of Roy’s blogs last week was one of the best he’s read, I was compelled to have a look, and I am glad I did! The blog dealt with a mental health service in Grimsby. It was something Roy had experienced through visiting a garden centre run by the mental health service. Without wishing to sound disrespectful, I don’t think I would ever have associated Grimsby with innovation, but what Roy described was the hugely innovative and creative work of a social enterprise called NAViGO:

They own apartments, create communities, and piece by piece, carefully reassemble the components of shattered lives and glue them together with skills, care, attention and tuff-love… …the acute team is the community team, is the crisis team. I couldn’t tell who was health and who was social care, who were staff, clients, partners and people working towards recovery… …services entwined with people’s lives, families, hopes and futures. And it works.’

Like Warren, I was also impressed with the description of how this service has developed. Many years ago, we had some folks from the precursor to the NAViGO service visit the University and it was possible even then to see what an exciting journey the service providers, carers and service users were on. That Warren recognised the importance of this work was also good to see, particularly as on Friday he published the GMHSC plans for the Transformation of Mental Health Service: Next Steps.

This document sets out the plans to make a £134 million pound investment in not only meeting the national mental health care targets, but in so doing, also look at new and innovative ways of improving the mental wellbeing and resilience of the GM communities. There are plans to ensure that physical and mental health programmes and approaches are to be more closely integrated – and with Olympic Gold Medalist Chris Boardman being appointed as the GM Cycling and Walking tsar (Commissioner), I have great hopes that we can do something differently.

Effective 24 hour access to help and support for children, young people and adults requiring immediate care and treatment are planned, as are improvements to the early intervention service provision. All of which will ensure that every £1 spent in prevention and early intervention will save £15 in the provision of ongoing health service costs for people experiencing mental health problems. Likewise, improvements to mental health care in the criminal justice system, particularly for those in prisons are outlined. 

It is a great document, full of hope and determination. Although the report doesn’t specifically mention gardens, or horticultural therapy, care farms or anything remotely similar I am confident that my colleagues at the University will ensure these approaches are included in taking forward the GM mental health transformational plans for the future. So thank you Roy, thank you Warren for show-casing what (if we want it), could be a bright new future for mental health care in the UK.