I am greatly troubled and saddened by the closure of The Orchard Psychiatric Unit to women in Lancashire, whether permanent or temporary. I am incensed that this was executed without patient and carer consultation, but I am in no way surprised.
The word is that this is temporary until The Harbour the new 'flagship' hospital opens next year, yet amazingly there was no need to stop women's access to the Orchard because until a few weeks ago a full male ward of around 22 beds, was open and fully functioning; Ward 18 in Burnley General Hospital. This should have remained open until the 'Harbour' was open to accept this extra population of patients.
The reason for this process can only be financial.
As a worker within this same Trust, I see the effects upon patients, their carers, families, friends and wider social networks of certain Trust policies. However; we must remember that Trust Executives and Governors are duty bound to tow the line set by the Department of Health, and this Government.
In other words the Trust Board, it's Governors and high tier management are generally formulating policies which in essence look purely at apparent immediate and short term financial reductions not normally genuine economic benefit.
I have to question where the Duty of Care has disappeared for both Trust Board members and the Department of Health. The government quite rightly espouses duty of care, but acts like it has no duty of care where short term finance is concerned. I believe Stafford was also partly a result of 'Target' driven management which seriously affected staff morale.
Government and Trust policies often ignore true patient need; i.e. an excellent package of care, looking specifically at an actual in depth holistic assessment of the patients and families therapeutic needs; followed by a full and rigorous provision of the identified therapeutic needs with fully trained staff at all levels.
I wonder whether people are aware that just 3 or 4 years back, the Trust initiated it's DoH ordered programme of budget cuts by a fifth (20%). Within the last year I was advised that this figure was increased to a quarter (25%). This programme had a 5 year time period.
What this means in real term reductions, someone smarter than I will have to say. These cuts march on, contrary to the statement earlier this year by David Cameron that NHS budgets are safe and 'Ring fenced'.
It should also be noted that in the midst of this earlier 20% cut, the board approved and the Chief Executive accepted a 20% RISE in her salary. This took her already incredible salary way over £200,000. In my opinion, if someone needs such a salary as an inducement to stay in post, I have to ask; does that person have the right motive to be there?
Surely providing what is NEEDED has to be the MOST economical way of caring for a person who is ill. I believe especially so with mental illness. With physical brain lesions, we expect everything to be thrown at brain Surgery; e.g. if a family member has a brain tumour or has been involved in a fall; yet we give as little as possible towards brain manipulation (Psychiatry / Psychology), where the affect is functional. This is the same organ.
I feel duty bound to loudly state that providing the necessary holistic and comprehensive person centred care package is an imperative for all patients, their families/carers and the wider socio-economic setting. Common sense says that this care package has to include ready access to a LOCAL inpatient unit when hospitalisation is necessary.
People with Mental Illness are so often sidelined, minimalised and misunderstood even by their own family. Not to mention their friends, fellow colleagues, Workplace Management, and dare I say it, yes even a number of so called Mental Health 'Professionals'. This ignorance affects their attitude and therefore behaviour towards the person with the illness, and results in the knock on effect of increased interpersonal stress which can only exacerbate the symptoms of the 'Broken Mind'.
If we break our leg, we put the utmost care into protecting it. We talk with empathy and treat the person suffering with compassion. We put a rigid cast on the injury site. We provide crutches to allow the person to support their leg whilst walking, or a wheel chair if things are more complicated; and we all rally around to help, even wanting to push the wheelchair.
However, with a fracture or a break in the mind, we act as though the mind does not require this protection. It's uncomfortable for us so we say- get a grip, pull yourself together, your just behaving badly. We are full of negative clichés. Yet, trust me, I know from experience that a person CANNOT just do these things without the 'appropriate' support and time.
With mental illness a 'glitch' has occurred in the brain's development or programming; or neurones are not communicating as and when they should. It is probably short term, but it WILL be longer term without the appropriate Stress free help; but this will likely develop into a permanent illness for many if we stay on the road we are on. Would you wash a burn site with hot water? No,; likewise you should not add stress to a broken mind.
My own family have suffered greatly due to mental illness and we are still affected many years on. When a member of your family is in a hospital away from home and you have to travel far to see them, it impacts greatly on the family all in areas such as emotion and finance.
Mental illness impacts on the economy, with time taken off work and adds extra pressure on Health Services and staff. Proper mental health care will have financial benefit across the national economy, including maximised productivity in the individual’s workplace.
As is the need of all, give these women all that they need to recover close to their homes, and the costs will be as low as it is possible to be. Holistic and appropriate care should be the Government and Trust values, not back room cuts and decisions for financial, not caring reasons.
Remember, it may be your Mother, Wife or Sister who has a sudden breakdown soon.