Headlines: December 10th, 1998

There’s been mixed feedback on Frank Dobson’s announcements on a new strategy and additional money for mental health from the body that represents health service managers.And the organisation that represents the heads of council social services has warned of the level of work involved in achieving the Government’s goals.

Suzanne Tyler, Deputy Director of the Institute of Health Service Managers said: ‘Managers have waited a long time for the mental health strategy but there are still more pieces of the jigsaw to fit in such as the National Service Framework and the reform of mental health legislation.”

And she called for those involved in mental health care to learn from past mistakes: ‘Many of the failings are not the result of policy but of poor implementation and failure to act on successive recommendations of inquiries. It is essential that the new strategy gives high priority to implementation.

‘The emphasis on staff training and development must include managers. The management of mental health services is very demanding and it is particularly important to give staff the skills to build links between health, social services, housing, police and the legal system. Creating good partnerships is vital to improving mental health.

The Association of Directors of Social Services’ President Chris Davies said it would take time and money to turn around years of neglect of the service: “We need staff time to win the trust and confidence of service users and carers; staff capacity to assess individual needs carefully, and a full range of caring services – from low-key home support through to intensive care.

“The proposals will help directors, working with their health colleagues, to redress some of the neglect of the past, and just as importantly to build on the proven successes of the community care policy. Many thousands of people who otherwise would have been unnecessarily confined to hospital have been helped to live much more fulfilling lives in our communities.”

ADSS will be urging Government that the forthcoming national service framework allows room for local considerations and solutions rather than be too prescriptive, and not to rush reform of the Mental Health Act.