Thursday, 8 August
Advice from the USA
This week, the media has reported on Professor Don
independent review into patient safety. The former Obama aide's
remedy for the NHS - and specific aspiration to zero harm - is a
sensible read. It also chimes closely with what is contained in
Intelligent Kindness: Reforming the
Culture of Healthcare, the excellent book by
John Ballatt and Penny Campling that we published in
But the question is, will those who make policy and commission
services really follow what he suggests? There is growing concern
over the overall health and well-being on the NHS's
1.3million-strong workforce. Sadly, we are seeing growing numbers
of doctors in the middle of their careers leaving the UK – fed up
of being stereotyped as not working hard enough or being
compassionate enough. And many young doctors are reporting that
they can't spend enough time with their patients and that they're
considering leaving the profession.
So while it’s great to see those in high
places express their support for Professor Berwick’s
recommendations, yet again the proof will lie in what actions will
follow. Will Professor Berwick’s recommendations he be empowered to
track and monitor the recommendations he has made, or will it be
left to the myriad of newly-created systems to do this? I want to
hear what policy makers and employers will do to improve the
wellbeing of the workforce - which will in turn make the workforce
more likely to deliver safe, effective and compassionate care.
As I reported in my
blog last week, I've been writing a series of letters to the
editors of national newspapers. I've been delighted to have letters
minimum pricing for alcohol,
plain packaging for cigarettes,
payday lenders, and
child abuse and neglect. Today', I've sent another on the £500m
bailout for A&E departments and what I believe is the real
problem behind the crisis - the lack of investment in mental health
services and the demise of liaison psychiatry services. This means
there is less support for vulnerable groups, including older people
with dementia, those with addictions, people who self-harm or are
in distress, and those with long-term mental illness at risk of
relapse. Unable to access the care they need, these people often
present at A&E departments in need of urgent help.
Mental health services were – and still are – an easy target for
NHS cuts. Mental illness is responsible for the largest
proportion of the disease burden in the UK (22.8%), but only
receives 11.9% of the NHS budget - which is why our College has
been doing so much work around parity of esteem for mental health.
The government and decision-makers need to increase investment in
mental health services, which will go some way to taking the
pressure off our beleaguered emergency departments.
And it's not just me who's putting pen to paper. I was very
interested to read the numerous
letters from psychiatrists and services users in today's
Guardian, written in response to Will Self's controversial
article in Saturday's Review section - 'Psychiatrists:
The Drug Pushers'.
I encourage all of you to consider adopt the "pen and quill"
approach too, and write to your local, regional or national paper
when you see coverage of an issue that sparks your interest. It is
a great way of getting positive messages about psychiatry and
mental health out there - and I believe it will get a response.
If you would like to post a response to Sue's blog, please
email the Website Manager, who'll be
happy to upload this for you.
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