Hello fellow unpaid carers. This blog site is geared towards those who support or look after someone suffering mental ill health. I run a number of carer-led expert by experience forums, which focus on unpaid carers regarding engagement from services. Most forums tend to have speakers to engage members regarding mental health system changes or discussing carer awareness.
For the South West London carers forum the following speakers were
NHS South West London CCG – Understanding health Commissioning for carers
Dolly Sen – Mental Health Patient/Carer champion
Matthew Mckenzie (myself) – The importance of carer peer support
As you might be aware, clinical commissioning groups are merging in their own region as part of NHS England’s long term plan, because my group covers a large area, it made sense for the comissioners to speak to carers from different boroughs in South West London.
South West London CCG presentation
First to speak was Caroline O’Neill who is the Lead Engagement Manager and covers Kingston & Richmond from NHS South West London CCG, we also had John Atherton in attendance who is the Director of Mental Health Transformation for SW London CCG.
John started off the conversation on what the plans are for the rest of the year and going forward. John explained how the 6 CCGs formed in five commissioning groups in South west London. They are responsible for planning, commissioning and buying most of the NHS services in the south west london area. That means hospital care, GP surgeries, rehabilitation clinics, mental health support, learning disabilities and many others.
The boroughs they cover are
The CCGs have a healthcare budgets of over £2.3 billion, although carers who attended the June’s meeting were interested in the CCGs mental health pathways and how they were going to include families and carers.
John explained the importance of health checks as those with mental ill health often struggle to get physical health checks and support. John mentioned what happened in the past is people were encouraged by their GP go get a physical health check each year. It is important the CCGs continue to push this forward because there are some service users who had not had a good experience in the past, or they don’t believe in health issues, so they are encouraging people to check at their practice.
A carer reminded the CCG representatives about how difficult it is for people have mental health difficulties to travel especially using public transport. They wondered how this will affect people accessing mental and physical health services for check ups.
I also asked a question to the CCGs regarding is there a simple view of the commissioning structure? Because we have got CCGs doing stuff in 6 boroughs, and then you’ve got merged CCG? So how do people sort of feed into each other on what is going on? The representatives spoke about their governing body and who is on it.
Another carer was concerned about those with learning difficulties with poor health accessing recovery colleges and wondered what the South West London commissioners were going to do about it.
The representatives were pleased to hear SW London and St Georges were promoting the carers forum, but the CCGs also wanted to include our group on developments of mental health services, as the group stressed the carers should be consulted and involved when it comes to service provision. All too often CCGs struggle to get a good number of carers interested in what they do. It could be an added benefit that carers poke their noses into what is being comissioned and why. This is because carers have a vested interest in the health of who they care for, plus carers do actually use some CCG services which could be Increasing Access to Psychological Therapies. A carer member of the group was concerned about the number of carers not being identified and referred to carer services and groups.
An interesting point of the discussion was finding out who were the mental health leads from each of the 6 boroughs, although there is a lot of work needed in developing primary care networks, because some members feel some GP surgeries could learn a lot from other GP practicies.
Dolly Sen presents
It was requested by carer members for Dolly Sen to talk with us at the forum. Dolly Sen is a service user survivor and a carer and has been fighting 20 years for human rights. Dolly mentioned that over the years while trying to keep mentally well, she has been using energies to focus on art, film, performance and even talking about her experiences at other events.
You can find more of Dolly’s work below.
A large part of Dolly’s activism is around the treatment of mental health users, especially around the problems with benefit payments or DWP. She is quite busy working to improve the mental health system in another area where she has moved to. Dolly admitts there are times when nothing can be done on someone’s health and situation, she feels sometimes it is best to be a witness.
A number of questions from members at the forum were interested in how their mental health trust is working to involve more carers in their involvement register. They queried with Dolly about involvement and activism.