Jon Rouse, Chief Officer for Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, the body overseeing the region’s £6bn devolved health and social care budget – on getting out and about in communities and the pledge to stop any divide between mental and physical health. Here, he speaks just ahead of World Mental Health Day on October 10.
‘King of the road’ is what I just told my Partnership colleagues should be my personal theme tune for the next twelve months in Greater Manchester.
And while that might be a light-hearted comment, the rationale is a serious one, because in visiting as many of our neighbourhoods as possible across Greater Manchester I can see first-hand how locality plans and our investment are translating into deliverable benefits for local people.
The metaphor is also apt because as a system that has been operating as an advance party to the other Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships (STP), we are at a stage of our journey where we have to see new care models really starting to provide positive impact on the ground. At the same time, a new paradigm is beginning to emerge – of local democracy and the NHS working together as absolute equal partners – so that the public sector as a whole places people and patients first in Greater Manchester, above any organisational interest. That proven stewardship of the system is why we are rated as an ‘advanced’ STP area and part of the network of emerging accountable care systems.
But in Greater Manchester, we also have this extra dimension of devolution. It is characterised by an unusual level of mutual commitment between the 35 partner organisations. That depth of partnership working is one that I can only thank colleagues for from within health and social care, the voluntary and community sector and associated public services. And of course that gratitude also extends to the people who live here: who are embracing a new approach to public services and helped us shape the map of our journey.
Such comprehensive partnership working has to be based on honesty. We know we have made improvements over the last year, but we also know that we have to build on that momentum and address some of inequalities that denigrate people’s potential.
That potential has too often been hindered by the impact of mental health illness and an outdated system that has left an unacceptable divide between mental and physical wellbeing.
This is why I want to devote the rest of this column to our mental health plans: which have moved from an initial strategy 18 months ago to the current position of a £134m investment package to bring the sort of change that means that we can start to meet our new Mayor’s ambition that no child that needs mental health support will be denied – or unnoticed.
These four-year plans have been co-produced across the full GM system to the get the balance right between investments in our acute mental health services and our community provision. This has been done with a maturity of approach that not only recognises our undeniable social responsibility; but also the compelling economic evidence on prioritising early years and youth services.
Prevention will be the core focus for our ambitious targets for 2021 starting from the very outset, so that new mums and mums-to-be who need help will get it; and thousands of children will get more help as early as possible.
For those schools across the region who want to be involved, we will also be offering training and development so that staff will be equipped to recognise any early-stage signs of mental ill health such as anxiety and how to help, but also to create an environment where children develop resilience. This, we hope will be one of the pivotal ways in which we can use our wider workforce to help and also to tackle the crippling effects of stigma, where silence is sentence for suffering.
But, it won’t just be young people that we will help. We will be paying close attention to how we help with the physical effects of poor or long-term mental ill health – where often people can die up to 15-20 years earlier than their contemporaries. We’ll also be giving extra support to the long-term unemployed or people with mental health problems who could be at risk of losing their jobs.
And significantly a real test of our progress will be measured against our crisis response: so that everyone who faces mental health crisis can get help quickly across Greater Manchester. That 24/7 crisis support is about having consistency of access to help, whichever way it is best provided for the patient.
I’ll end this column here: with the observation that if we can bridge the chasm between mental and physical health, it will be a true test that the culture we are trying to create – of a holistic approach to the way that health and care services are delivered – is beginning to have real impact. I can’t wait to get back out into our communities and see some of our new and expanded services at work.