Tag: Mental Health (Wales) Measure

Spring election, and the politics of mental health

It hasn’t always been like this, but mental health is something which politicians now talk about. In the run-up to next week’s general election mental health has even featured in public appeals to voters. The Liberal Democrats have particularly campaigned in this area, and in their manifesto promise £500 million per year for better mental health, and specifically make a case for investing in research. Labour talk about giving mental health the same priority as physical health, and the Conservatives say pretty much the same. Reviewing all the main parties’ manifesto promises for evidence of concrete plans for post-election improvements to mental health care, over on his blogsite the Psychodiagnosticator observes ‘that many of them were so vague as to amount to no promise at all‘. I think he has a point.

Possibly the broad manifestos produced in the run-up to a general election are not the places to look for fully worked-up blueprints of what future mental health policy across the UK might look like. Perhaps, more accurately, we should not think about ‘UK policy’ in this context at all. Members of Parliament elected to Westminster next week, from amongst whom a new government will be formed, will have authority to directly shape services in England only. Health and social care remain areas over which devolved authorities have jurisdiction, and for a ballot delivering a government with the power to pronounce on mental health care here in Wales we must look to the National Assembly elections to be held in 2016. I’ve indicated before that mental health policy here is different from that in England, and indeed from other countries in the UK. Consider again the case of the Mental Health (Wales) Measure. This is a piece of legislation for Wales alone, mandating for care and treatment plans, care coordinators, access to advocates in hospital and the right of reassessment within secondary mental health services following discharge. It was introduced in the face of some strong, pre-legislative, criticism from at least one senior law academic (Phil Fennell) who in 2010 began his submission to the National Assembly by saying,

The gist of my submission to the Committee is that this measure, although well-intentioned, is cumbersome, unduly complex, and will lead to a delay in providing services which ought to have been available already to service users and their families in Wales under the National Service Framework for Adult Mental Health and the Care Programme Approach.

Five years on the Measure has not only passed into law, but been subjected to a round of post-legislative scrutiny by the National Assembly’s Health and Social Care Committee (see my post here), to which the Welsh Government has now responded. With data from across both England and Wales, COCAPP (and in the future, COCAPP-A) will have something to say about how care planning and care coordination are actually being done, and readers will be able to draw their own conclusions on the extent to which changes in the law trigger changes to everyday practice. And, whilst we’re in policy comparison mode, for a view from Scotland try Paul Cairney. He argues that divergence in mental health policy across the UK, exemplified by contrasting English and Scottish experiences of reforming the law, reflect differences in both the substance of policy and in policymaking style.

In all of this I am, again, reminded of the wicked problems facing all policymakers who seek to intervene in the mental health field. Whatever direction it takes, future policy will be open to contest and will surely trigger waves of consequences.

Taking Measure

Here in Wales we have the Mental Health Measure. This is a piece of legislation passed in 2010 and implemented in phases in 2012, and which is intended to improve the quality and timeliness of mental health services. Specifically, it provides for:

  • primary mental health care;
  • care and treatment planning and care coordination;
  • the right for an automatic reassessment of needs in secondary mental health services for people discharged within the previous three years;
  • advocacy in hospital.

This month the National Assembly for Wales Health and Social Care Committee has reported on its post-legislative scrutiny of the Measure. The Welsh Government has already committed to conduct a formal evaluation of the legislation through a duty to review, built in as the Measure passed into law. In pursuit of this an inception and an interim report have already appeared, with a final document due in 2016. With the Health and Social Care Committee’s report appearing this month it is clear that the Mental Health Measure is becoming seriously scrutinised.

When the Committee published its call for evidence last year the COCAPP research team submitted a response alerting Assembly Members to our ongoing study. It would have been ideal had we been able to report key findings, given that COCAPP is an examination of care planning and care coordination and is, therefore, of interest to anyone wanting to know how part 2 of the Measure (dealing with care and treatment planning) is being experienced. But the Health and Social Care Committee’s timescales and those of COCAPP were not aligned, meaning the best we could do was to draw attention to our project.

This month the Committee praises many aspects of the Measure but also makes ten recommendations. They address:

  1. meeting demands for primary mental health care, particularly in the case of children and young people;
  2. improving the collection of data to better support the evaluation of primary mental health services;
  3. taking action to improve the form, content and quality of care and treatment plans, with a view to increasing service user involvement and spreading best practice through training;
  4. making sure that rights to self-refer for reassessment are properly understood and communicated to all;
  5. improving staff awareness of service users’ eligibility for independent mental health advocacy in hospital;
  6. setting timescales for new task and finish groups reviewing the Measure, and setting out plans to respond to their recommendations;
  7. during evaluations of the legislation, consulting with as wide a range of people as possible using traditional and novel approaches;
  8. ensuring that information is available in a variety of formats, so that all groups of people are able to access this and to understand;
  9. following the publishing of new plans for the improvement of child and adolescent mental health services, making clear how these will be realised;
  10. carrying out a cost benefit analysis of the Measure.

Clearly, Assembly Members have detected evidence of an uneven pace in the development of primary mental health care across Wales, and are particularly concerned to make sure that the mental health needs of children and young people are properly identified and met in timely fashion. As a COCAPP-er, I am interested to read that the Committee thinks care and treatment planning for everyone can be improved, informed by examples of best practice and through investment in staff training. I also pick out the recommendations on improving service user collaboration, and estimating the costs and benefits of the Measure. These resonate, to me, with current concerns in Wales with prudent health care and co-production.

And as for COCAPP’s findings? Suffice to say our draft final report is now under review with the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Health Services and Delivery Research (HS&DR) Programme. More to follow in due course…

Divergence and difference in mental health policy

Yesterday’s main business was a there-and-back trip to the University of Nottingham to act as a PhD external examiner. Reading this (very interesting) thesis in advance, discussing with the candidate at viva and talking with supervisory and examiner colleagues over lunch has reminded me (again) how mental health policy and services in Wales and England are diverging.

As an example, there really is no equivalent to the Mental Health (Wales) Measure on the English side of the Severn Bridge. For those not in the know here, ‘measure’ in this context means ‘law’. The Welsh Government’s brief public summary of this piece of legislation says:

The Mental Health (Wales) Measure 2010 is a new law made by the Welsh Government which will help people with mental health problems in four different ways.
Local Primary Mental Health Support Services
The Measure will make sure that more services are available for your GP to refer you to if you have mental health problems such as anxiety or depression. These services, which may include for example counselling, stress and anxiety management, will either be at your GP practice or nearby so it will be easier to get to them.
You will also be told about other services which might help you, such as those provided by groups such as local voluntary groups or advice about money or housing.
Care Coordination and Care and Treatment Planning
Some people have mental health problems which require more specialised care and support, (sometimes provided in hospital). If you are receiving these services then your care and treatment will be overseen by a professional such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, nurse or social worker. These people will be called Care Coordinators and will write you a care and treatment plan – working with you as much as possible. This plan will set out the goals you are working towards and the services that will be provided by the NHS and the local authority and other agencies to help you reach them. This plan must be reviewed with you at least once a year.
Assessment of people who have used specialist mental health services before
If you have received specialised treatment in the past and were discharged because your condition improved, but now you feel that your mental health is becoming worse, then you can go straight back to the mental health service which was looking after you before and ask them to check whether you need any further help or treatment. You don’t need to go to your GP first, although you may wish to talk it through. You can ask for this up to three years after you are discharged from the specialist team.
Independent Mental Health Advocacy
If you are in hospital and you have mental health problems you can ask for help from an Independent Mental Health Advocate (IMHA). An IMHA is an expert in mental health who will help you to make your views known and take decisions in relation to your care and treatment (but will not take decisions on your behalf!)

COCAPP, as some readers of this blog will already know, is investigating care planning and care coordination in community mental health: so the Care Coordination and Care and Treatment Planning component of the Measure is a really important part of the study’s context. It will be interesting to see how far national-level legal and policy differences are ‘felt’ at the level of everyday practice.

There are other important differences in emphasis across the two countries, too. I hear anecdotally that to save money some of the work done by England’s assertive outreach and early intervention teams is being called back into comprehensive, locality-based, community mental health teams (CMHTs). Assertive outreach and early intervention teams, alongside crisis resolution and home treatment services, sprung up in England in the first decade of this century following the publication of the National Service Framework for Mental Health, the Policy Implementation Guide and the NHS Plan. Here the strategy document Adult Mental Health Services for Wales, which appeared in 2001, was strong in its commitment to CMHTs and as a result (I have always thought) we never had quite the range of differentiated services which England had. We have, of course, got crisis services in Wales, as I have previously written about here, here and here.

And it’s not only in the mental health field that policy and services are diverging. We have no clinical commissioning groups in Wales, for the obvious reason that the Health and Social Care Act 2012 applies to England only (for more on this, check out this post dating back to the time I heard Raymond Tallis speak at the Hay Festival).