Mental Health Services

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2015 Health Care Service Group Conference
5 December 2014
Carried as Amended

Conference notes that mental health services are arguably in crisis. They have never necessarily achieved commensurate funding with general health care services, and the austerity policies of this government have hit mental health services disproportionately. There are extant problems with capacity, leading to large numbers of patients being transferred out of area. Whole swathes of valued services exist in community settings not directly managed by the NHS. Many day services are operated under the aegis of local government, and are currently subject to massive cuts. These matters bring us onto the territory of the future shape of the NHS and potential for better integration of health and social services.

Specific issues in mental health care also include deaths in custody, highlighting complexities regarding use of physical restraint to manage violent and aggressive behaviour. There are other complexities over the use of personal budgets and the impact upon societal well-being of austerity and so called reforms of the tax and benefit system. Dementia care is intimately wrapped up with physical health services and there are significant gaps in support both when newly diagnosed and once needing substantial nursing care. The plan to offer GPs a capitation fee to diagnose dementia appears to ignore the need for specialist assessment and intrude a conflict of interest into a particularly vulnerable time for patients and their families.

The resolution of many of these issues boils down to workforce and resource issues. What is needed is concerted, democratic involvement of staff and service user voice in planning and strategic development. At least some of this ought to involve pursuing alternative forms of care that are not singularly bio medical and emphasise the skilled input of nurses and other key members of the health workforce. There is an absolute need for mental health services to be able to claim a fair share of overall budgets in relation to the health care demand presented by mental distress.

Conference calls on the Health Service Group Executive to:

1) campaign for union involvement in planning going forward for optimal integrated health and social care services and for these to be adequately funded from taxation and to work with Labour Link to achieve this;

2) campaign for union, community and service user collaboration and alliances to develop strategic thinking on these matters;

3) develop a strategy for effectively involving service users in the union’s own policy formation on this issue.