‘Timid’ mental health bodies criticised

Mental health providers are too “timid” in tackling poor practice and discrimination in their services, Community Care Live was told.

Hari SewellEmployers were afraid of tackling problems in services because they did not want to lose hard-to-recruit staff, Hari Sewell, director of social care and substance misuse services at Camden and Islington Mental Health and Social Care Trust, told delegates.

He said the public would not put up with poorly performing staff in other health services, and suggested the mental health sector needed to be “far more fearless in the way we approach improvement”.

Sewell said performance indicators should focus on service user experience, and provision should be examined for “language that betrays” poor values within the sector. He cited the example of in-patient  services where end-of-shift reports state “no management problems” because there had been no violent incidents.

He said it betrayed staff attitudes and values that assumed their role was to go to work and hope no one “kicks off.”

“You’ve achieved what you wanted to achieve and the service users are just there to be contained,” he added.

Peter Ryan, professor of mental health at Middlesex University, told the conference that service users must be encouraged to help fill the growing number of vacancies in the mental health workforce.

He told delegates that one-third of the mental health workforce was expected to retire by 2010.

He added: “In my view we need to develop increased partnerships with user-run services and involve service users in as many ways as possible just for us to have the services we need.”

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