Saturday, 23 April 2011

.....continued - Where do we service users go from here ?

Let's never forget that our Welsh Assembly Government has ignored the rights of service users by, systematically, denying us genuine involvement in the planning, or alterations to our Mental Health services.  Not only have they dismissed our concerns out of hand, they have autocratically decided that we can never have a say in the future of our service.  How has this happened ? and, Why has our government ignored the ruling legislation from Parliament, plus the whole raft of quasi - legislation and guidelines that they created, specifically for the benefit of all service users and carers.  We had a National Service Framework that was never implemented, followed by a Revised edition that was, similarly, left to gather dust among the tomes of empty rhetoric that ( seemingly ) offered  us a Shangri-La of mental health services where we were free to express our concerns, with written guarantees that these would be properly addressed - all of this costly work swallowed up in a whirlpool of politcal, deceipt, rationalisation and cost-cutting, bad intent - or, simply 'Paying Lip Service' to the declaration that "Mental Health was a top priority for our Government (along with Cardiac and Cancer Treatment )". In fact, ever since Rhodri Morgan uttered those infamous words, "Our Government will be open and transparent", we have had nothing but lies and false promises from all of his Ministers, and other lackies, whose only concern was keeping the gravy train running, whilst empire-building at the side of the Rubicon-sorry-Taff.  Gone were all the disengenuous, insincere, false promises, made by our new Welsh Assembly Government, especially after the departure of the first First Minister, ( famous for running and parachuting, apparently), Alun Michael.

However, as Gillian has so eloquently and forthrightly stated, this is nothing new.  Mental Health services have been getting smaller and more inadequate over the last decade and beyond.  Jane Hutt was on our side though, she ( and her minions ) created the National Service Framework for Mental health services, then spent her time abolishing the Health Authorities and replacing them with 22 Local Health Boards.  Unfortunately, she failed to clear out the dross of incompetent management that was the cause of the failure of the health authorities.  Even now - those that aren't dead, like the Local Health Boards that Jane Hutt created - have still been kept on by our even newer Wales National Health Service.  Why, even the Chief executive of Bro Taf Health Authority - famed for leaving a legacy of debt in excess of £46 m - has been given the new new post of Chief Executive of the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, after years in the wilderness.  Her 'old chum' Edwina even had the kindness to forgive her past  incompentent management, by asking her to 'help' form the means of transistion to the new health board that - surprise, surpise - she ended up running. Mental Health Services were being run down over a decade ago and - surprise surprise - the same incompetent managers continued this destruction during the ill wind of change in NHS services.

The closure of Sully Hospital marked the end of any pretence of honesty, probity, or 'genuine service user involvement'.  The disposal of these historic buildings, and 75 acres of prime land, with 67.5 acres of prime seafront, marked the end of any honesty in the NHS or the government, when the sale was made to the lowest bidder, who managed to purchase this valuable public site for a paltry £2m, as marketed.  In addition, the incompetent Trust handed over a further 20,000 sq ft of land to build on at £50 per square ft - an addition previously forbidden and - surprise surprise - not offered to any of the other 103 bidders.  The shameless cover-up of this 'improper' deal continues to this day, with the government cowardly abdicating its responsibility to investigate this abuse of public assets in the same Cavalier manner that they have chosen to abdicate their responsibility to correct the dishonest changes made to our mental health services, following the recent so-called 'consultations' conducted by their subordinate bodies, the University Health Board and the Community Health Council.  So, we must not dwell on these crimes, but look to the future to decide what we - as service users and citizens - can do to bring about genuine improvements to our Mental Health Services.   Is there a constructive solution to this problem ( to be continued.......)

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

An Apology before I continue.....

Before I continue, let me apologise to the colleague who rightly corrected me when I said that the greatest cause of anxiety was the current 'Fit for work' assessment.  This should have read 'current' source', as the real cause of anxiety is the illness itself and how to get help without being stigmatised by friends, family, work colleagues and even your own GP.  For some unknown reason, when we finally get up the courage to ask for help, we are told that there is nothing ( visibly ) wrong with us, like 'physical' ailments such as a broken arm or vomiting.  Far worse, is that we immediately get labelled as being 'mental', as clearly as a Jew in Warsaw during the holocaust in World War Two. 

Although we don't actually have a yellow star pinned on our clothing, we become segregated from the rest of society because of the illogical fear of an illness that cannot be seen and is, therefore, more difficult to diagnose. So, instead of being properly assessed, we are sent to our GP to be given some pills that will, hopefully, stop us being an embarrassment to family and friends. "Pull yourself together, you fool", "You just need a jolly good kick up the backside".  Over 70% of people who are regularly presenting symptoms of 'mental or emotional' problems are dealt with in this manner, with 'the pill' being the magic solution, instead of a proper psychiatric assessment that would manage to identify those in need of specific treatment for potentially serious conditions that may be life-threatening.  This is the only way to identify the type of care needed for all those of us who become corralled by a system that uses the shotgun approach to treating the mentally ill.  By this, I don't mean that we actually get shot, I mean the the local practitioner ( metaphorically ) fires hundreds of lead shot at what he sees as the target, in the hope that at least one will hit its target.  This is too 'hit and miss' and is the greatest fault with our current system of mental health care.  There has to be a way of reaching those who suffer in frightened silence, in order to prevent their conditions worsening.  Most importantly, it is imperative to reach out to these poor souls before - like me - they get to feel left with no other option than to attempt suicide, because they 'have no useful purpose in life', 'everybody hates them, because of stigma and an unwillingness to help', or 'I am in everybody's way'.  Fortunately, for me, I have some great friends who I am able to call, knowing that they will adopt an empathetic attitude towards me.  It doesn't matter what I say, or how distressed I am, my friends wait, patiently, using soothing and complimentary words that help to distract me from wanting to self-destruct.   Most of all, they give me the sense that I am loved and that, with their help, I will be alright - calm, and able to begin a day of constructive, useful activity. Although my family don't want to know, I am blessed with a wonderful Community Psychiatric Nurse, a brilliant Psychiatrist, a Psychologist who has given me purpose and the ability to see my worth, and a loving friend who is my 'Eliza'.  They are always there for me and I am no longer ashamed to ask for their help anymore.  No one should be afraid to talk about their problems.  If your family  won't help, talk to a counsellor, or one of your own religious faith who will be committed to helping you.  My heart aches for the 30 or more adolescents, from around the Bridgend area who didn't get 'heard' and took that awful, irreversible step that leaves us all saying ( I fervently hope ) "Why couldn't someone have done something to prevent these tragedies ?"
You are not alone - there is always help - so please, just ask ?
Thank you, my friend for correcting me.  Please help me to remember to do the correct act of caring for others like us, who may benefit from our experiences of being ill. 

Sunday, 17 April 2011

A Day That Will Live in Infamy

Tomorrow is the 18th April 2011.  So What ?

Well, to my little band of 'warrior-like' service users and carers, this date has great significance as it is the final date when we could file an Application for Judicial Review against the perpetrators of three sham 'consultations' for; The closure of the Midwife-Led Unit at Llandough hospital in favour of the University of Wales hospital site in Heath, Cardiff; The closure of Rookwood hospital, with services (  supposedly equivalent ) moved to the top floor of Llandough hospital, which has been cleared of all women's services ( gynaecology etc ), as well as the fairly new and very successful Intensive Care Unit. Needless to say, the 'consultation' document 'Making a Difference' didn't even bother to refer to the removal of these essential services, nor the closure of the Cardiac Care Unit that has twice saved my life.
Again -  "So flippin' What ?" Why should this skulduggery affect the mental health service users.

Coinciding with these two highly improper ( and we contend, illegal ) consultations, another was introduced for 'Adult Mental Health Services', misleadingly preceded by those famous words "Bringing Excellence To...". After four planning approvals for a new mental health hospital to be built on the Whitchurch site, the new and incompetent Cardiff & Vale University Health Board officers had decided - behind closed doors, of course - that the new inpatient unit should be built on the already overcrowded Lllandough site.  The stunned public and patients were treated to machine-gun-like presentations from the duplicitous Board Director, Katie Norton, backed up by the 'Mr Bean' of the University Health Board Paul Stollard, Director of Planning, no less.  I mustn't forget that the Community Health Council Chaired these virtually empty meetings, demonstrating a level of intelligence-insulting, ineptness that has never been seen since the 'bent' consultation meetings held under the two clowns Martyn Jenkins.  The ineptness was demonstrated by their attempting to use the wrong Welsh Assembly Government Guidelines, which I pointed out to them at the first meeting.  They then ( like a rabbit out of a hat ) produced a set of 'Interim Guidelines', supposedly based on three consultations held in faraway counties in the principality - totally irrelevant to Cardiff and the Vale, of course, and totally ignored by both the University Healtht Board and their fawning lap-dogs the Community Health Council. Every point of variance from the Queen of Harts' guidelines was painfully spelt out to the University Health Board, the Community Health Council, and the Minister and her subjugated administrative team.  Even the Ombudsman had a detailed copy which , as with his fellow villains, he failed to investigate.  Thick as thieves, they all sang from the same song-sheet, with lies flowing like a Tsunami over the bemused public, patients and staff.  Undeterred, we engaged a solicitor, committing a large sum of money to engage a noble Barrister, who said that our case was 'excellent', but extremely expensive for us, up against the £8 + millions that the University Health Board had already thrown away preparing the Whitchurch site.  So, having 'lost our deposit' ( as it were ) we are now unable to seek the Judicial Review against the illegitimate representatives of Cardiff & Vale's public and patients, who have been denied all their rights, as specified in the Health and Social Care Act and every piece of quasi-legislative documents created for mental health services.

"SO BLOODY WHAT !" I hear you scream.

So, having been cheated out of rights and the support of OUR government, we appear to have been beaten, by the overwhelming weight of unconcsionable, remorseless opposition

."Not yet, we 'aint....." says I, "....not by a long chalk" [ TO BE CONTINUED ]

Being Sane in Insane Places

This blog has been set up after an Institute of Welsh Affairs coffee shop debate with the above title took place at the Wales Millennium Centre on 5th April 2011. This generated considerable interest and we would like to hear the views of other people affected by mental health issues, as well as share our opinions and invite debate on this subject.

About Us

Robin Williams is a volunteer Patient Advocate. He is the only independent Mental Health Advocate in Wales. (He is the one in the above picture with a beard!)

"Advocacy is quite simply, standing up for the mentally ill – individually and collectively – for the purpose of improving their confidence and quality of life. In practice it means getting a desperate plea for help from somebody that has been labelled as being ‘mentally ill’, as opposed to being ‘normal’, whatever that’s supposed to be. My job is not to question their degree of illness or their current treatment, but to answer their call for help. It doesn’t matter to me what their needs are – from benefit problems, being conned by a retail store, arguments within their family, or simply listening to them in their moment of distress."

You can read more about Robin and his work in this article:

Gillian Brightmore is a published writer who works in adult education. She is representative with the Cardiff and Vale Mental Health Development Project.

"My own experiences as a former user of mental health services have led me to question a shameful state of affairs in which a 19th Century model of care is still operating in today’s Wales. Raising awareness in and outside the mental health profession is long overdue if we are  to tackle the current 19th Century Victorian asylum ethos of containment and censure rather than ‘healing’. After all, one in six of us will be subject to one or another of a wide range of mental afflictions at some stage in our lives."

You can read about Gillian's experiences in her article here: