Tag: Wales

More observations from a small country

This new paper has been a long time in the making. Work on it began with preparations for an address given at the Australian College of Mental Health Nurses conference in 2018. Refinements and updates happened towards the end of 2019, in the context of preparing for a talk delivered at a Royal College of Nursing-sponsored event in Cardiff in 2019, with a further version presented at an online conference organised by Julia Terry, from Swansea University, during the 2020 coronavirus lockdown. Along the way the written article has benefited from a critical reading from both Michael Coffey and  Nicola Evans, and from no fewer than four anonymous peer reviewers. My thanks to all of them.

Observations from a small country: mental health policy, services and nursing in Wales can be downloaded in green open access form from the Cardiff University institutional repository, and has this as its abstract:

Wales is a small country, with an aging population, high levels of population health need and an economy with a significant reliance on public services. Its health system attracts little attention, with analyses tending to underplay the differences between the four countries of the United Kingdom (UK). This paper helps redress this via a case study of Welsh mental health policy, services and nursing practice. Distinctively, successive devolved governments in Wales have emphasised public planning and provision. Wales also has primary legislation addressing sustainability and future generations, safe nurse staffing, and rights of access to mental health services. However, in a context in which gaps always exist between national policy, local services and face-to-face care, evidence points to the existence of tension between Welsh policy aspirations and realities. Mental health nurses in Wales have produced a framework for action, which describes practice exemplars and looks forward to a secure future for the profession. With policy, however enlightened, lacking the singular potency to bring about intended change, nurses as the largest of the professional groups involved in mental health care have opportunities to make a difference in Wales through leadership, influence and collective action.

The argument I’ve developed here is that policy for health care in Wales, and for mental health care specifically, has distinctive features. As a peer reviewer I continue to have to correct manuscripts which conflate ‘England’ with the ‘UK’, and I’ve tried in this article to point out some of the things which make Wales different. I have also highlighted what seem, to me, to be gaps between well-intentioned policy aspirations and actual experiences as revealed through research. Overall, though, I intend the paper to convey a message of optimism, noting (amongst other things) the high value placed on the relational work of mental health nurses and the positive differences nurses make. Enjoy the read!

Mental health policy, services and nursing in Wales

The COVID-19 pandemic has drawn attention to the existence of devolved government in the UK. Here in Wales we’re used to hearing from Mark Drakeford, but my guess is that it’s only in recent months that most people in other parts of the UK will have become actively aware of his role as First Minister, and indeed the authority held by the Welsh Government to create policy and to legislate. For a helpful discussion on all things Wales and COVID-related, here’s a link to an episode of The Bunker podcast on the same.

In a Wales-themed episode of #mhTV held in October 2020 I joined a discussion panel alongside Hazel Powell (Nursing Officer for Mental Health and Learning Disability in the Chief Nursing Officer’s team) and Michelle Forkings (Associate Director of Nursing/Divisional Nurse for Mental Health and Learning Disability in Aneurin Bevan University Health Board) to talk about policy, power and mental health health nursing. Here’s a link:

Nursing numbers

Next week I’ll be in London for this year’s Eileen Skellern and JPMHN Award evening, hearing Mick McKeown give his Making the most of militant and maverick tendencies for mental health nursing Skellern lecture and Patrick Callaghan deliver his Lifetime Achievement Award address. The day following, June 14th, I’ll be at Kingston/St George’s chairing the summer meeting of Mental Health Nurse Academics UK. One of the things we’ll we talking about is NHS England’s Interim People Plan, which looks to be prioritising mental health nursing as an occupational group in need of support. Here’s a short piece I wrote yesterday for the MHNAUK website, complete with a toxic-looking figure showing the decline in applications for nursing degrees:

The NHS needs more mental health nurses. The most recently available data on the size and composition of the workforce in NHS England, for February 2019, records a total of 36,290 mental health nurses. This compares to an NHS England mental health nursing workforce in September 2009 of 40,602.

Published on June 3rd 2019, the Interim NHS People Plan is about supporting the people needed to deliver NHS England’s Long Term Plan. Chapter 3 addresses nursing, this being the profession where the greatest shortages are found and where the most urgent and immediate action must be taken. Mental Health Nurse Academics UK welcomes the identification of mental health nursing as a priority group, and notes the Interim People Plan’s statement that what must now happen is:

[…] a detailed review across all branches of pre-registration nursing, including a strong focus on the steps needed in mental health and learning disability nursing to support growth in these areas.

The Plan echos Mental Health Nurse Academics UK’s view that undergraduate degree courses offer the best way to secure a future supply of nurses. It also reproduces a figure pointing to a sharp decline in applications for nursing and midwifery courses in England since the removal of bursary support (specifically, a 31% decrease between 2016 and 2018):

Annotation 2019-06-06 120912
Extracted from Interim People Plan, p24

The Interim People Plan places an emphasis on what it refers to as ‘the offer’ made by the NHS to its staff. Mental health nursing needs a better offer if it is to improve the recruitment, retention and support of its current and future members. Mental Health Nurse Academics UK will be looking for concerted action in these areas.

My view is that this decline in applications was entirely foreseeable in the context of the removal of bursaries in England. As it happens, students of nursing and other health professions commencing their programmes of study in Welsh universities in Autumn 2019 can expect to be supported through the award of a bursary, in return for working for two years post-qualification in NHS Wales. That’s a good deal, in my book, and is something presented as part of the country’s wider #TrainWorkLive initiative. I’m not entirely sure how far this ‘Welsh offer’ (to borrow the language of the People Plan) is known throughout other parts of the UK: so I’m happy to give it a nudge here.

Observations from a small country

IMGP3076Here are two digital mementos from my trip to Australia: a photograph of a humpback whale (which breached and swam under the boat I was on for a good 45 minutes), and – more pertinently, perhaps, given the usual subject matter of this blog – the slides I used in my keynote talk at #ACMHN2018. This was the conference of the Australian College of Mental Health Nurses, held in Cairns in October 2018, and from which I have now returned home. My talk was all about mental health policy, services and nursing in Wales: which means this may actually be the only time I ever get to write about both ‘Wales’ and ‘whales’ in the same post.

Here are the slides, the material for which I’m also aiming write up as a paper:

 

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.

Monitoring the Mental Health Act: what’s happening in Wales?

Just enough time this morning to note this week’s publication of the Care Quality Commission’s annual report into the use of the Mental Health Act in England, and to pose a question. Here are word-for-word snips taken from the CQC report’s summary, covering the year 2012/13:

Our findings on the experience of people detained under the MHA are in the context of a system where:

  • The number of people subject to the MHA continues to rise.

  • There are nationally recognised problems with access to care during a mental health crisis. There is evidence that pressure on services continues to obstruct timely access to less restrictive crisis treatment. Service commissioners in local authorities and clinical commissioning groups need to give a higher priority to translating local needs assessments into evidence-based commissioning of services.

And:

  • On almost all wards, patients had access to independent advocacy services. This is a considerable improvement.

  • We saw improvements in helping patients draw up advance statements of their preferences for care and treatment.

  • But more than a quarter (27%) of care plans showed no evidence of patients being involved in creating them. More than a fifth (22%) showed no evidence of patients’ views being taken into account. This is no improvement on the previous year, and is unacceptable. Services who do not demonstrate good practice in this area should learn from areas who are demonstrating that it is possible to deliver best practice.

  • We continue to see widespread use of blanket rules including access to the internet, outside areas, room access, and rigid visiting times. Some type of blanket rule was in place in more than three quarters of the wards we visited. Such practices have no basis in law or national guidance on good practice and are unacceptable.We continue to hear accounts of patients’ experiences of being restrained. In this report we promote examples of good practice where providers of inpatient mental health services have taken positive steps to reduce the use of restraint.

  • Health-based places of safety, for people experiencing a mental health crisis, are often not staffed at all times. Some have lain empty while a patient has been taken to police custody.

  • Only 17% of recorded uses of hospital-based places of safety under section 136 resulted in further detention, following assessment by mental health professionals.

  • Carers have told us they are not always provided with enough information on how to get help in a crisis.

  • In one area police told us that 41 young people had been detained in police cells over the previous year; the youngest was 11. This is unacceptable.

  • In 2011/12 and 2012/13 we were notified of 595 deaths of people subject to the Act. There were 511 deaths of detained patients, and 84 deaths of patients subject to CTOs. The majority of deaths reported to us were natural causes with a third of those taking place before the person reached the age of 60. Attendance to the physical health needs of people with mental illness must be a priority for all services. We will be working with partner organisations to review national data on all deaths and how this can be combined and shared to improve scrutiny and embed learning.

There’s plenty here to think about and act upon, but as a COCAPP researcher I immediately spot the CQC’s observation on the general lack of service user involvement in care planning. In its coverage, The Guardian emphasised the rise in numbers of detained patients, whilst Community Care ran with the headline, ‘Mental health system failings breaching patient rights and damaging care’.

In this part of the UK the work of monitoring the Mental Health Act falls to the Healthcare Inspectorate Wales. In addition, statistics on admissions in psychiatric hospital in Wales are published here, from which data from 2012/13 can be downloaded. Back on the HIW site I see a Mental Health Act monitoring report for the year 2010/11, which states in its summary:

We generally found detained patients to be cared for and treated by staff who have the necessary knowledge and skills, however, there were gaps in provision. We are particularly concerned that record keeping in relation to consent to treatment was not always appropriately followed. As the Act allows for some medical treatment for mental disorder to be given without an individual’s consent it is important the correct procedures are followed by organisations. We are also concerned that patients were not always being made aware of their rights in a timely manner.

The lack of activities and therapeutic input that was evident in many settings needs to be addressed and we will continue to focus on this matter in the year ahead. Access to therapies including psychologists was found to be variable between organisations. This is concerning as such therapeutic input can assist in recovery and lead to shorter periods of detention.

The HIW states in this document that it has responsibilities to publish its Mental Health Act monitoring findings on an annual basis. It is entirely possible that I’m looking in the wrong place, but I find it odd that the last report available online appears to be that covering the year 2010/11. Am I missing something?

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).

Reflections on a pre-conference week

Funding for Welsh students and Welsh universities is in tonight’s news, I see, and I’m beginning to wonder how long the Welsh Government’s current policy in this area will survive. More immediately, it’s been a varied enough week for me personally: and that’s without my two days at the NPNR conference in Warwick which begin with a frighteningly early start tomorrow morning. But at least I’ll have Gerwyn Jones and Mohammad Marie in the car for company, so all will be well.

Highlights so far include a meeting of (most of) the excellent RiSC team (which includes the newly-professored Steven Pryjmachuk), to make further progress on our evidence review of ‘risk’ for young people moving into, through and out of inpatient mental health services. This is a two-phase project, and we’re now in the second segment. This is involving searches for research and other materials across a number of databases, and putting out calls for evidence to local services and other organisations.

Data has continued to be generated in COCAPP, and this week a date has been set for a first planning meeting for an exciting new project I am involved in led by Michael Coffey. More to follow on this in the fullness of time, I expect. And yesterday took me to a second meeting of the Mental Health Research Network Cymru Service User and Carer Partnership Research Development Group, an event convened at Hafal‘s premises located in the grounds of the magnificent St Fagans: National History Museum. A good place, St Fagans: well worth a visit.

Elsewhere there have been comments to make on students’ draft assignments, research ethics committee work, undergraduate teaching to prepare (on roles in health and social care teams) and writing plans to be laid. I’ve also been reading a PhD ahead of a viva scheduled in the next few weeks. So this short post will do for tonight: time to knock off, iron some shirts, pack a bag and have an early night.

Stress and community mental health nurses

A particular aim of mine in starting this blog was to bring research I have been involved in to a wider audience. So with this in mind, here is a post introducing readers to a series of studies I worked on, with Cardiff colleagues, from the late 1990s to around 2006.

The All Wales Community Mental Health Nursing Stress Study was our first project, led by Professor Philip Burnard. Included in the team were Deborah Edwards, Dave Coyle, Anne Fothergill and myself. Our funding was from the GNC for England and Wales Trust, and we aimed to find out about the causes, moderators and outcomes of stress in community mental health nurses (CMHNs) working in Wales. Our data were generated using a demographic questionnaire and these previously created measures:

  • Maslach Burnout Inventory
  • General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12)
  • Rosenberg Self-Attitude Questionnaire
  • Community Psychiatric Nursing Stress Questionnaire (Revised)
  • Psychnurse Methods of Coping Questionnaire

Our first published paper was this literature review, which Scopus tells me has thus far been cited in 66 subsequent publications. We went on to publish a series of data-based articles from the study, in some of the journals whose names I have added to the word cloud above. The references for these papers are listed here, along with a brief summary of our headline findings.

The team’s next study was a systematic review of stress management in the mental health professions. This was funded by the Wales Office of R&D for Health and Social Care, which was the predecessor body to NISCHR. We found far more papers describing how stressed people are than we found papers suggesting solutions to this problem. Follow this link for a reference list and project summary.

Finally in this series of projects was a study ‘to identify the factors that may influence the effectiveness of clinical supervision and to establish the degree to which clinical supervision might influence levels of reported burnout in community mental health nurses in Wales, UK‘. An expanded team this time included Linda Cooper, John Adams and Tara Jugessur. This study involved the distribution of two questionnaires, again to community mental health nurses in Wales:

  • Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI)
  • Manchester Clinical Supervision Scale

This project, too, has a webpage giving details of our main findings and of our published papers.

In the years since this last project concluded I have had conversations with people on what the next line of inquiry might be. The questions we first asked some 15 years ago seem to me to be as relevant today as they were then. I imagine there remain large numbers of very stressed and burned-out mental health practitioners out there. I also suspect there is still work to do to protect the well-being of staff, and to promote their resilience.

An evening on the Taff Trail

A brief post with no bearing on work matters whatsoever. Yesterday evening, in the two hours before sunset (which was just after 9pm), a perfect opportunity was presented to take in the simple pleasures of walking the Taff Trail. This is one of the places I also like to run, though for the last few weeks I’ve been nursing a sore Achilles and have, therefore, been resisting.

This part of the world is criss-crossed with disused railway lines, harking back to South Wales’ industrial heritage. Check out the photo here, which was taken yesterday on the flat, mile-long, stretch leading from the Penrhos Cutting to the bottom of the steep hill which climbs above Castell Coch.

This second photo was taken on the same stretch looking towards Craig yr Allt, which remains one of my most favourite places of all.