Thursday, 1 September 2016

Viewpoint via Andrew Strong Mental health strategy needs to reflect thebigger picture


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ALLIANCE Assistant Director (Policy and Communications), Andrew Strong, writes the  ALLIANCE latest viewpoint on the Scottish Government's new mental health vision and priorities for the future.
Given everything that has happened so far this year, May’s Scottish Parliament election might well feel like a long time ago.  I have to admit that 2016 seems to lurch from one major event to another with very little time to reflect on what has gone before.
One of the major themes of the pre-election period, which is well reflected in many of the party manifestos, was a focus on mental health and recognition of this as a priority area for action.  This came, in no small part, due to the significant campaigning efforts of third sector organisations like SAMH, whose Ask Once, Get Help Fast initiative has resonated widely with politicians.
The new Government has been quick to outline its call for views on a 10-year vision for Scotland– a consultation that runs into September.  In discussions with members about the strategy we have, however, noted some serious concerns about the scope of the new vision, the level of consultation undertaken to date and its potential impact. 
Reflecting back on the 2012-15 Mental Health Strategy is a good starting point for recognising why.  Its thirty six commitments enabled external inquiries of human rights based approaches in mental health in Scotland and the role of peer support.  The Mental Health Foundation and Voices of eXperience (VOX) have published A Review of Mental Health Services in Scotland, providing a snapshot of experiences and views on future development and reflection on the successes and challenges of the mental health system in Scotland. 
Detailed information provided in these reports have not, on the face of it, subsequently influenced the development of the new 10 year vision.  In my view, this is largely because the previous strategy was focused on report writing and not on what should change for people with mental health problems as a result of those reports and recommendations.  What we have been left with is a series of outputs, instead of outcomes.
Earlier this week we responded to the Health and Sport Committee’s call for evidence on mental health and highlighted these concerns – endorsing the Scottish Mental Health Partnership’s recent proposal for a high level commission on the future of mental health in Scotland. 
The Scottish Government must make sure that any new strategy is developed with an outcomes focus at its core, and with opportunities to participate and hold the Government to account for its success or otherwise.  We can’t accept a situation where Scottish mental health policy, once a world leader, is not effectively influenced by the voice of lived experience.
Andrew Strong
Assistant Director (Policy and Communications)
Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland (the ALLIANCE)
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