I visited 12 services last week and would particularly like to highlight two things: at Meesons Lodge in Thurrock, I heard that two of the people supported there who have profound and multiple learning disabilities are on a cruise holiday. Too often people with learning disabilities are supported to go on less imaginative holidays, like Butlins in Bognor, and it is great when staff have the ambition to support people to have a fantastic experience irrespective of their level of disability. The other thing that really impressed me was the “Bake Off” competition that was held at Lilliputs. A large number of people that we support were encouraged to take part in a bread and cake making competition. The cakes that I saw were of really high quality and the most important thing is that well over £100 was raised for charity. This is a great initiative. I would also like to pay tribute in this blog to Cheryl Bishop, Regional Director for Brighton and Hove and East Sussex. One of her services has been short staffed and she has gone in to do several sleep-ins to provide continuity and avoid the use of agency staff. This is real leading by example.
I have had some feedback that some staff in CMG don’t think I should mention the “weed of the week” in my blog. It has been suggested that it’s rather negative and also shows a lack of appreciation for the hard work that staff do, particularly if there are staffing shortages, which means that there isn’t always time to do the weeding. I thought about this carefully, and do really recognise and appreciate the commitment our staff show and the hours they sometimes have to work. However I have decided to carry on including “weed of the week” for two reasons: firstly, when I go round services people do comment on “weed of the week” quite a lot which means that it has achieved its goal of raising awareness. Secondly, if we say it’s ok to have weeds then I think that gives out the wrong message; what else then would it be okay not to do? Having said that, there is no “weed of the week” winner this week. I visited a service on Friday evening where there was a big clump of weeds, but the staff immediately dealt with them as soon as I pointed them out.
I also attended two different meetings with NHS England last week talking about the Transforming Care programme. As you know, this is the programme to reduce the number of people living in assessment and treatment and secure units following Winterbourne View. It’s clear that NHS England want to have a genuine dialogue with providers and to take our views on board, which is to their credit. I do, however, have a real concern that NHS England isn’t collecting the data it needs to really know whether the programme is making a difference. They are able to record the fact that discharges from hospital are increasing, but there is limited data as to where people are actually going. What we don’t know is whether people are going to high quality services designed around their individual needs or into large scale institutional services that will be the next Winterbourne View. We also don’t know whether people are being supported successfully or whether placements break down quickly leading to re-admission to hospital.