Dorothy Jarvis Lee: Our chance to improve mental health services

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MY ORGANISATION ubu has welcomed the boost to mental health services promised in the run up to the General Election and the chance to partner with the new NHS vanguards; it provides a real opportunity to deliver improvements to mental health services.

But there is a very real chance that the golden opportunity could be missed if we lose our focus. Simon Steven’s announcements about the new NHS vanguards cheered those of us within the private sector of healthcare provision no end.

Here at last was a real chance to make a contribution, collaborate with the public sector to deliver real improvements to patient care and save some of the that all important cash at the same time.

I pause for breath though because this whole new approach is dependent upon some of those who currently work in the NHS changing the way they work.

Part of the vanguards remit is to develop pioneering partnerships with organisations who can contribute best practice, share ideas and suggest different ways of working for the benefit of the patients.

That is our style of working. In the 30 years we have been supporting some of the most vulnerable adults with very complex conditions, we have constantly innovated revising and upgrading our models for the benefit of the people we serve.

ubu wad among the first to use pets as therapy, now it is commonplace. Similarly, we pioneered giving vulnerable adults there own homes to extend their independence and give them more dignity. Again, it is becoming more widespread as the benefits to everyone are recognized.

We are not alone. Across the country there are other organisations, not just in the provision of mental health support, who have developed results orientated models of care and practice that have improved the lives of people.

The vanguard approach demands that some within the NHS abandon their old style attitudes to health care and the NHS and embrace such changes.

In the field of mental health care there is set to be a focus on young people, pregnant women and returning war veterans.

Simon Stevens, the chief executive of Leeds-based NHS England, has promised the NHS the resources to treat more than 100,000 young people by 2020. That must be translated into action.

Practical plans include: waiting time standards for children, family support work, better training for clinicians, and embracing new technologies such as help via websites and apps as well as a hard hitting anti-stigma campaign.

We already have the outline of a strategy and implementation plans; my big fear is that unless the NHS looks outside itself, looks to the future and consults widely, the initiative will be lost.

Previous fears that the private sector cannot contribute real benefit must be cast aside in the more important pursuit of improving people’s care and the understanding that the public purse is not a bottomless pit that can be relied upon.

To drive up improvements in the lives of the people they serve, administrators and commissioners must invite organisations such as ubu to the table, ask them how they have achieved success and consider how their own model could be adapted to change.

To ensure the vanguards doesn’t run aground before they get to the first hurdle, I would like to see some real checks and measures built in so that society has accountability that the NHS is looking externally for the best possible practice, consulting as widely as possible and invite those who have a track record of success supporting vulnerable adults included in the consultations.

ubu has a track record of delivering real improvements to the lives of the people we serve. Already we have looked at becoming pioneering partners with some of the vanguards in the areas where we have settings and look forward to collaborating.

Sadly some of this energy and impetus could be lost. The current system is too fractured, too complex and too under-resourced and while this money goes some way to change things there is still work to be done on the others.

The amount of money being injected into mental health is a considerable amount and should, in reality, make a significant difference; however it will not benefit anyone if the structure is not improved. It must be very carefully implemented and managed just as effectively.

• Dorothy Jarvis Lee heads Harrogate-based health and social care provider ubu.