Monday, 25 November 2013

No Public Health without Mental health in Sefton

I have always believed that government needs challenge and discussion rather than deference or conformism.  Sadly the ruling Bootle Labour Party in Sefton seem to disagree. The know it all. Cabinet meetings last a few minutes, the Health and Well Being Board is stuffed with Labour councillors-no opposition allowed. We have to use Freedom of Information requests to acquire information that should be in the public domain. Undue secrecy pervades their actions. As a result they 'mess up'. What follows is a tale of one such event:

It has been a good year for the Public Health aspect of Mental Health. The Time for Change Campaign has really begun to bite and the celebrity endorsement pf  people like Stephen Fry has begun to move public opinion. I have been impressed with Ruby Wax,  'C4 goes Mad ' series and and the recent Bedlam which are reviewed here. At a government level Norman Lamb has won much approval from the medical health sector.  The White Paper -No Health without Mental Health- and the recent NHS mandate with its clear expression that mental Health should have 'parity of esteem' with physical Health has led to real changes for the better-eg mental health services used to be excluded from crisis service response targets and  when the patients right to choose where they received their treatment was introduced by the last government it did not include mental Health services .

 Sefton Council's agenda for the November meeting  arrived recently  complete with the Public Health report as an item  proclaiming:
Most importantly, Sefton Council now has the overall responsibility for protecting and improving the health of our local population"

It goes on to list 'at a glance ' the the items to 'keep focus' on:

Sefton’s Stop Smoking Service:
Breastfeeding: Sefton
Physical activity
Health Checks
Immunisation Uptake

What happened to 'parity of esteem' for mental health? I looked further in the report and there it was on page 8 with 'other' issues. In fact I think there were more photos of Labour Councillors than there were mentions of mental health. 

I decided that something ought to be done and I realised that arising from the debate I could move a resolution.The Centre for Mental Health, Mental Health Foundation, Mind, NHS Confederation Mental Health Network, Rethink Mental Illness, Royal College of Psychiatrists and YoungMinds have come together to create a local authority mental health challenge and to put mental health firmly on to the Public Health agenda in Sefton I thought I'd try to get them to sign up to the challenge. I adopted the standard motion which read:

  • 1 in 6 people will experience a mental health problem in any given year.
  • The World Health Organisation predicts that depression will be the second most common health condition worldwide by 2020
  • Mental ill health costs some £105 billion each year in England alone.
  • People with a severe mental illness die up to 20 years younger than their peers in the UK.
  • There is often a circular relationship between mental health and issues such as housing, employment, family problems or debt.
This council believes:
  • As a local authority we have a crucial role to play in improving the mental health of everyone in our community and tackling some of the widest and most entrenched inequalities in health.
  • Mental health should be a priority across all the local authority’s functions, from public health, adult social care and children’s services to housing, planning and public realm.
  • All councillors, whether members of the Executive or Scrutiny and in our community and casework roles, can play a positive role in championing mental health on an individual and strategic basis.
This council resolves:
To sign the Local Authorities’ Mental Health Challenge run by Centre for Mental Health, Mental Health Foundation, Mind, Rethink Mental Illness, Royal College of Psychiatrists and YoungMinds.
We commit to:

  1. Appoint an elected member as ‘mental health champion’ across the council
  2. Identify a ‘lead officer’ for mental health to link in with colleagues across the council
  3. Follow the implementation framework for the mental health strategy where it is relevant to the council’s work and local needs
  4. Work to reduce inequalities in mental health in our community
  5. Work with the NHS to integrate health and social care support
  6. Promote wellbeing and initiate and support action on public mental health
  7. Tackle discrimination on the grounds of mental health in our community
  8. Encourage positive mental health in our schools, colleges and workplaces
  9. Proactively engage and listen to people of all ages and backgrounds about what they need for better mental health
  10. Sign up to the Time to Change pledge.
There were , of course, no apologies for the omission but they did agree to my motion- but not until we were treated to some very revealing responses. I was to rest assured that there was some excellent work going on -but obviously not important enough to go into the report (as one Labour Councillor later explained to me the sub text of that speech may have been  that if  the speaker had been the cabinet member the omission would not have happened.  Then the cabinet member -he of the many photos-did not address the point but rather lamented the fact that the council were asked to sign so many charters. Maybe if instead of spending so much time posing for the camera he had engaged his critical facilities he would have challenged the report himself prior to publication.. And that really is the heart of the matter.I used the charter to highlight the ommision. The report went to the health and well being board-stuffed full of Labour members-no opposition members allowed and that means no Southport councillors and none of them challenged the report ( I would add the the health needs of Southport and the health services in Southport are very difference from Bootle. In addition we have a separate CCG and a hospital Trust that covers W. Lancs)   

We radicals have always believed  in government by challenge and discussion rather than deference or conformism. Hiding away from challenge- holding 3 minute long cabinet meetings and excluding the opposition leads to poor decision making

For Councillors I would recommend these briefing notes (not a lot of use in Sefton because as the Leader of the Council keeps reminding us -he 'takes lectures from nobody'. And look at the outcome

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