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The shrinks await

Posted on 10 June 2009 | 9:06am

Knocking this
off very quickly before heading to a conference in the North East to make a
speech on mental health. So before too long I will be in a room full of
psychiatrists, in Tony Blair’s old constituency of Sedgefield.

With the BBC
leading on a report suggesting real pressure on NHS finances in coming years, I
will be making the point that the public profile of a public service can make a
difference when public sector resources are allocated.

services are often viewed, not least by psychiatrists, as the Cinderella end of
the NHS, a trend reversed under successive Labour health secretaries.

And as well as
the financial impact of the economic crisis there will be psychological impact
too. Not for nothing is the same word – depression – used in economic and
psychological contexts.

I’ve just done
BBC Radio Newcastle – meant to be about mental health but that was tacked on
the end of an interview about TB and God, and then the expenses scandal, never
mind – and the presenter admitted she would be petrified of talking to a
roomful of psychiatrists. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Meanwhile a few
observations on communications from watching breakfast telly in between
breakfast, gym and radio interviews this morning. Andy Burnham – did well on
big picture context.

A man from
Halfords on their results – excellent performance. Good tone, weaving in loads
of plugs for their products, even made losses on sat navs sound like good news.

A woman from
Connectivity, which is launching what sounds like a very irritating mobile
phone directory inquiries system. Not great. I had been tempted to opt out
based on what I knew so far. Definitely opting out now.

John Terry
trying to build tension pre a game against Andorra – good effort.

Got to go now.
The shrinks await.

  • Terry Evans

    Sounds like you’ve had the same morning as me, difference is I’m only seeing one shrink. I wish Andy Burnham had been more bullish. He argued well and made the necessary points, but I felt that he should have been more aggressive when pointing out Tory shortcomings. David Miliband did yesterday. Anyhow have a good day

  • Jane A

    The effects of recession on vulnerable people is twofold – first they are more likely to become depressed if houses and jobs are at risk, and second, the pressure on public spending will come around as an effect of that recession, and the NHS will need to fight hard to get what it needs and spend it wisely. Demand for mental health care is on the up, the pot of public money is finite.

    I like Andy Burnham, I’m glad he is putting out the common sense message about the big picture. I also believe there are enough people who work within the NHS who are committed to providing essential care effectively that we will cope with what’s to come.

  • Brian Hughes

    I hate to make an easy political point (he lied) but it’s not only the NHS that helps those with mental health problems. Many (often quite small) local voluntary/charity organisations do sterling work. I helped with the administration for a while at a tiny one that, amongst other good stuff, manages to give occupations to a few people who’ve lost their way and are finding it hard to get back into work.

    David Cameron claims to recognise the importance of this sector but his foot-soldiers in Tory councils up and down the land are busy cutting the (often tiny) grants that help to sustain such groups. In London I think one of Boris’s nastier stealth cuts (aka “efficiency savings”) has been to a drug dependency scheme.

    We really ought to be using Tory local government incumbency to help those who don’t remember the Thatcher years get a glimpse of what life might be like under a Conservative government.

  • Gary Enefer

    Well done for your good works in this area.

    I would like to say that i faced a difficult situation with my GP in 2005 who didn’t think I was sick enough to be referred to a Psychiatrist or Mental Health
    Team. He did refer me,however,when I said I had Bupa and Psychiatric health was covered. On being referred the Psychiatrist did diagnose depression and anxiety and a borderline personality disorder. I just wonder how many people are in the same boat with GPs being Gatekeepers?

  • Wyrdtimes

    Andy Burnham did very well! It can’t have been easy discussing the state of the English NHS for 20 minutes without using the word “England” or “English” once.

    But then Andy Burnham is a man who once said “I am proud to be a man of the regions” seems he just can’t say the E word. Or is it a directive from our glorious leader McBrown? he can’t say it either – prefering “our country” or “the country”.

    Anyway this is why the English NHS is so desperately skint: The Barnett Formula.

    These are the latest figures for funding per person across the UK

    Northern Ireland £9,577
    Scotland £9,032
    Wales £8,493
    England £7,426

    No doubt you’ll be supporting Andorra MrC? You don’t seem to care much about the country of your birth…

  • Randle P McMurphy

    Psychiatry needs to get rid of of the archiac diagnostic models that they cling to when they are treating people. They need to start by treating the person as an individual a proper human being instead of condition or a label willing to be pumped full of the wrong drugs. Yes boys and girls this kind of treatment persists in Psychiatry today. Reform! Let us start with the Psychiatrists first.

  • basilmalaise

    ‘Doctor, doctor! I’m terribly worried. I keep seeing pink striped crocodiles every time I try to get to sleep.’ ‘Have you seen a psychiatrist?’ ‘No – only pink striped crocodiles.’

  • Tubby Hubby

    If I remember correctly AC you discussed Gender bias in mental health and how this can put men at risk of suicide. How do the mental health services propose to deal with complex areas such as race/ethnic and cultural bias and mental health. A while back I did a little research into this area and discovered that many people from a British Asian community preferred to keep their mental health problems strictly private or chose to keep it in the family. This means that many people could be denied proper access to mental health treatment and resources.

  • Jane A

    @Tubby Hubby

    Correct re the gender bias. The major cause of death in men between 18-35 is suicide. Early Intervention mental health services work to combat this. Re the racial bias, there is an over-representation of Afro-Caribbean men within specialist mental health services and the incidence of them being sectioned is higher than for their white counterparts.

    Additonally re race and culture, there appears to be evidence that some ethnic/BME groups will not present to a GP with mental health issues because of perceived “shame” to the family/community they belong to. Therefore their problems go untreated. Mental health services therefore have an obligation to reach out to these groups and find a way to enable them to seek help without offending cultural sensitivities.

  • Thomas Rossetti

    Alastair, I really admire your honesty and candour when it comes to mental health issues, but I wish you’d been open about this when you held such an important position in Blair’s administration.

  • goldfish

    I work in the NHS and can’t believe how little credit it has been given for its successes over recent years, including the investment in mental health, reduction in so called superbugs and better pay for doctors and nurses.

    However, the most dramatic change has been around waiting times.

    For those of us who remember people having to wait 12 hours to be seen in A&E or four years for a hip replacement, the change is astounding.

    Today, 98%+ of people wait no more than four hours in A&E, most a lot less. And the maximum wait from being referred by your doctor to starting treatment for something like a hip replacement is 18 weeks for more than 90%+ of people.

    Talking with Jo(e) Public, people have noticed a difference. However, they think their experience, or that of a friend or relative, is an anomoly. It’s takes a lot to convince them otherwise.

    The Government must work out how to sell this story in the run up to the election and to milk it for all it’s worth. This is a success that we must shout about.

  • Jane A

    @ Goldfish – great post. I believe the average wait across all conditions is now just over 8 weeks from referral to treatment. Makes a pleasant change from when it was eighteen months (under the Tories).