The pieces of the Mental Health Puzzle are coming together

Shocking news – I can now no longer go without at least a cup of tea every two hours. I am also adapting to working in an office – I no longer find it odd to share information with people sitting in the same room by email! Having said that, I have had countless very constructive conversations about general issues in the mental health sector, as well as more specific ones about my project. Everybody on the Campaigns team that I am part of has been incredibly supportive and always prepared to provide me with feedback on my work.

I can hardly believe that my second week at Rethink is almost over. It is a bit frightening to watch the days fly by, but at the same time incredible how much I have already learned and done.

This week, I have worked a lot on the survey that we and other mental health organisations will be sending out through our networks. The questionnaire is targeted at people affected by mental health problems or their carers. It includes a whole spectrum of illnesses, ranging from Schizophrenia to Anxiety Disorder. I have fiddled around a lot with the phrasing and emphasis of the questions, to make sure that the data we collect will provide us with information on the issue we are trying to address – what practical changes in primary mental health care would be most useful, and how can we implement these?

We are now in contact with the organisations we intend to work hand in hand with: Mind, NSUN, The Mental Health Foundation and the London Strategic Clinical Network (who hosted the primary care conference I attended what feels like years ago). I expect to receive some input from them, and will make final changes to the survey according to their feedback – and then the questionnaire is ready to be sent out.

In addition to this, I have been working on another primary mental health care-related piece. Rethink is, in collaboration with others, working towards something called a CQUIN (Commissioning for Quality and Innovation). This is a payment which service providers receive if they can show that their patients have received a particular treatment outlined in the CQUIN.

In the case of the 2014/2015 Mental Health CQUIN, there are two objectives to be met by service providers in order to qualify for the payment. One is that they need to make sure that mental health patients receive regular physical health checks (because antipsychotic medication causes significant weight gain, diabetes, high cholesterol and hence heart disease – these people die on average 15-20 years younger than the rest of the population) and then treat those risk factors. The other objective is to improve communication with the patient’s GP and share information with them, in order to avoid a duplication of work, and make sure all professionals involved in the person’s care are aware of important details.

At the moment, I am designing an information sheet for health professionals, outlining the content of this programme, why it can make a massive difference to patients, and generally encouraging the staff to realise these improvements. This leaflet will be distributed around mental health services.

Next week, I will attend a conference around physical health of people with mental health problems, where exactly these issues will be discussed.

I am starting to see how all these different aspects of mental health care – the role of the GP, physical health problems, communication between primary and secondary care providers, etc – are interconnected and make up a bigger picture. The different parts of the puzzle are slowly coming together, and it is a great feeling to see how my work fits in there.

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