Last update 24th. April 2005
As Deputy Chair of the PPI Forum for Birmingham & Solihull Mental Health Forum I am now resigning.
I have served the PPI for over a year . I have supported in 2003 the need for 72 patients in Moseley to be properly consulted only to see a report about follow up on that cynically sidelined. This year I have supported the need for full consultation at the Frantz Fanon Centre for Afro Caribbean and Asian Services. The Trust under financial pressures look set to close this centre anyway . I think that undermines services to BME Service Users.
Their consultation rights were also sidelined until the PPI strove to alter that.
There is a culture at the Mental Health Trust of slip-shod consultation practice - that's just the plain uncompromising truth - which patients have to face.
On a personal note I have given the Commission For Patient & Public Involvement In Mental Health long enough to answer me on issues of Mental Health personal support as an actual "patient" on the patient's forum , and now I feel I can no longer continue being a PPI member without appropriately thought out supports.
Its not just about me though - lots of patients nationally who have needed more support have not got it . We are allowed "a carer-allowance" to attend meetings - and that's it . It does not fit need properly. Some time ago I asked the Commission for one psychotherapy session per month paid for privately because the local Trust in my opinion has a poor supply and I dont trust the quality either. I have not been answered. As someone who suffers social exposure fears after a history of maternal separations followed by child abuse - I expected more support . Its hurts me being around people . Yes - its part of my "normality" - I need to emotionally unload that somewhere reliably.
I am also dismayed by the way a number of things have been handled over time which have caused me real personal suffering. I will be pursuing those later.
I do not believe the mental health patient's lot is set to improve easily - rather, the current systems we have, are set to be ritualistically danced around to the tune of a Government that is set to give mental health a poor order of priority.
It talks of "social inclusion" practices but creates no reliable funding streams . It orientates social inclusion practice too much around "work" - which fits some, but not enough around creative contributory activity which can fit the less regularly minded folk. Spin and illusions are the order of the day both with the Government and with mental health agencies.
"Choices" of treatment are another illusion in mental health. That is perverse. Lots of people need more adjunctive "talking" or cognitive therapies allied to their treatments and that should be available through the private market if local supply through the Trust cannot meet demand . This is a feature that I believe is being given poor resources. I also believe the Government has sidelined this aspect though inadequate measurement. Were they to have approached GP's and asked the honest question about how many people need "supportive talking therapies" and set that against figures for what I believe is the cost driven over-use of drugs - then we all might have seen a push to planning more health giving therapy orientated services.
I have had services with the Mental Health Trust in Birmingham for a number of years. Continual change is absolutely unhealthy - the North of Birmingham Mental Health Services are internally and humanly speaking, rocked by too much change, a merger which has favoured the south side of the city , and I have no sympathy for people in mental health circles receiving large salaries not standing up for truth and for other human beings, with courage and telling politicians how it really is.
I cannot live inside such combined illusions , although some take pay for it. My life as someone who lives with mental health disorder is all too real and has no defences against social truths which face me . That is the real cutting truth of the patients perspective. Patients are at the "Front" - there are no comfortable trenches for us - just pain and hurt and the vision of questionable services.
You can be assured I will still inhabit mental health circles - only this time I will be more independent, de-bureaucratised , unhampered, fearless, and critical in my approach towards services. I will help others embrace the Arts In Mental Health and I will be putting personal money to that in the future.
My colleagues on the PPI both past and present have been truly warm human beings. I wish they had ALL been supported better . I wish them all well and will support them in other ways as an independent patient with a lot of frontline experience...
Paul Brian Tovey
A PPI deputy Chair - that is now a member of the public.
With all experience and wisdom gathered I see in Mental Health failed Govt strategy and too many tiers of buraucratic involvement absorbing finances away from "local and focal need".. God knows the PPI's should have been central to change and true patient independence. The key point for me is to see the sovereignty of individual "Choice" of treatments failing to be implemented. Mental health. Institutions like NIMHE a key cog in Govt "vision" seem to deliver much promise, plenty of promotional documentation but is it actually helping to deliver practical and better service delivery at the bottom where the patient exists related to its aspirations. I am not convinced at all. They have become puppets to anxious Dept Of Work and Pensions thrusts to get the mentally disordered back to work. To do this they cobble ideas together and are supporting User Forum Cultures who are supposed to help the work of Trusts and are actually often paid by them . That's not independent enough. There is a conflict of interest there and it can work very subtley. Trusts invariably operate like mini political domains. That's the social reality I have seen it in my time on the PPI in Birmingham. I have heard it reported elsewhere.
Having sought private mental health treatment, all of these "structures" of "User-voices" and half baked "consultative" systems can be seen to be actually irrelevant at the point of private service delivery. They dont have to exist . That is a big thematic wake up call to someone who was a Labour Voter. I am not arguing all mental health should "go private" - but I am arguing alongside for more options for private treatment for "local and focal need" (individual packages) being funded without huge bureacracies being built up sucking money away from the patient.
The "work for all" Dept Of Work and Pensions drivers bolstered, by a Social inclusion Unit now more or less hijacked to a work only view is perverse in my opinion. It leaves out all sorts of irregularly minded people who might be able to contribute socially if only they were given grants they could use at home. Its important for many MH Users to be able to feel socially connected and their supported use of the internet must grow but they also must be in control of their own websites and discussion boards. Otherwise there are those in the higher echelons of the growing class of MH "Super-Users" who will take that over. Once again "local and focal need is all" . Patents must have ways of plugging into grants that are otherwise going to big charities, big agencies, and I feel are helping to create partial markets for themselves.
I think PPI structures were critical to a real revolution in Mental Health. I had vision inside all the apparent blindness and shared social hypnotism . To have been given poor support only shows me sovereignty of the patient and individual mental health treatment choice is as far away now as it was when I joined the PPI. Quite simply we have bureacratised mental health and failed to create choices at a humanly meaningful level. The NHS put a relative on SSRI's for nine years and left her useless before I got her into supportive therapy.
I am not wrong : "Trust The Patient " - I still am one .....
I am deeply concerned about what is happening to the state of Mental Health in Britain. Two of us have created a website called "MH Users Online" we are quite radical in our criticisms of people in the public eye the url is :