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We are affiliated to Mind, the national mental health charity.

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Great to hear from italk (psychological therapies, Hampshire), as the roll out into north Hants gathers pace, that we won a round of applause from a group of north Hants GPs when we went to give a presentation. Well deserved, I’d say, with the team working evenings and weekends to deal with referrals at over 1200 a month (over 1500 in January,) and recovery rates way above the national average.

One of Mind’s strategic objectives is that “everyone in England and Wales can access Peer Support by 2016”. If ever there was an untapped resource, it’s the army of people with lived experience who know what it’s like to have been through the mental health mill and come out the other side – often stronger and wiser. There’s nothing quite like personal experience to inspire others. Mind’s 2013 report on “Mental health Peer Support in England: piecing together the jigsaw,” is now being made widely available and shows the value, including the evidence base, for Peer Support. Led by Abby Crowe, Solent Mind’s Peer Support project in Southampton is about to move on from mental health to other needs groups in its second year – a notable example of mental health leading the way. What’s less clear is how Mind’s ambition for universal access to Peer Support will be realised without the widespread support of commissioners and other funders. But the case for investment is well made.

Mental health inpatient beds – or the lack of them – have made the headlines again thanks to Community Care magazine. People are being sent to hospitals hundreds of miles away at a huge cost to the NHS. Norman Lamb, interviewed on the Today programme, is a Minister at the Department of Health and he seems surprised and appalled but appears to bear no sense of responsibility for the loss of 1700 beds since April 2011. Puzzled, I decide I’d better check out what’s happening locally. According to Community Care, Southern Health NHS Trust sent 134 patients out-of-area in 2013-14, some as far away as London and up from 0 in 2011-12. Southern Health’s board meeting in March heard about an “exponential” rise in demand for acute beds in Southampton, but the Trust is planning to close yet more acute beds. My own board recently asked if they could have more discussion around policy in mental health. This may be a short agenda item; I’m no longer sure there is one.

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