Monday, 28 October 2013

Who's got OCD? Obsessive treatment of OCD on TV screens this week

People seem to be returning to the subject of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) rather a lot lately (boom-boom). And is it any wonder. Almost half of the UK adult population believe themselves to be suffering from mild to severe OCD, a recent study reveals.

The study, conducted by Benenden Health in partnership with OCD UK, was released to mark the start of OCD Awareness week on 14 November 2013. Problematic behaviours include obsessive checking of locks, frequent hand-washing, hoarding, frequent checking of appliances, excessive cleanliness, preoccupation with symmetry and intrusive repeating thoughts.

This week promises to be a bumper week on the OCD calendar with an almost obsessive treatment of the subject on our television screens - no less than three programmes dedicated to its exposition and exploration in as many days.

Tonight (28 October) we start with OCD Ward (9:00pm, ITV1), which focuses the treatment of OCD at the Springfield University Hospital in South London. OCD Ward will address the impact of  the condition on patients and their family relationships, as well as the difficulties involved in treating it.

Then, tomorrow night on Channel 4, stay tuned for Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners which starts at 8:00pm and, as the name suggests, focuses obsessive behaviour around cleanliness. As much as some of us may feel that a small dose of this particular malaise wouldn't go astray in our lives, this is a serious illness with painful consequences.

Bedlam, on Channel 4, constitutes an OCD triple-whammy. This new four-part series challenges misconceptions about mental illness through unprecedented access to the patients and staff of the South London and Maudsley (SLaM), the world's first and oldest psychiatric hospital, it promises to make absorbing, if somewhat heartbreaking viewing. The first episode starts this Thursday (31 October) at 9:00pm and will feature OCD and other anxiety-related conditions being treated at the Anxiety Disorders Residential Unit.

So if there's any week to discover the facts about OCD this is it - just go easy on the replays.

Written by Jacqui Hogan

Thursday, 17 October 2013

It's standing room only in English mental health facilities

In this post-modern era (and I never have been entirely sure what that means) it's difficult to know, at least from the outside, what's going on with mental health services in the NHS. In recent weeks I've written about a friend of mine who has lately been confined to a secure unit in North London and is having a lovely time by all accounts, reporting that "it's just like being in a hotel". Then, on the other hand, we hear in the media this week that mental health services are in a state of crisis - what's one to believe?

Just to give you the heads up on this week's report in The Guardian, an investigation has revealed that over 1700 mental health beds in England have been closed since April 2011 (representing a 9% reduction). Care minister Norman Lamb has described the situation as "unacceptable" - provision must improve, he says (earnestly).

The investigation protocol involved BBC News and Community Care magazine sending out 'freedom of information' reports to 53 out of England's 58 mental health Trusts. A substantial 87% of those to whom the report was sent (and that's a very high proportion so they were obviously motivated) replied.

The findings reveal that 75% of bed closures were in acute adult and geriatric wards and psychiatric intensive care units. Average ward occupancy levels were running at 100% and total (as opposed to average) occupancy levels were over the 85% limit recommended by the Royal College of Psychiatrists, with some at over 100%. Which begs the question - where were all those patients being stashed?

Whichever way you look at it, this can't be good, particularly considering the demographic of ward closures. Adult, geriatric and psychiatric patients in intensive care - not exactly the thick end of the wedge, shall we say.

"We're certainly feeling it on the front line, it's very pressured and we spend a lot of our time struggling to find beds, sending people across the country which is really not what I want to do" said Dr Martin Baggaly, Medical Director of the South London and Maudsley NHS Trust. He said that he had recently directed 50 patients in need to beds outside the Trust, all to facilities outside of London and some as far away as Somerset.

Let's face it folks, if you or a member of your family were in need of an acute bed for a mental health admission, the last thing you'd want is to be removed from your geographical support network or worse still, be given no bed at all. What becomes of the non-admissions?

Not to worry though. Norman Lamb, further to his observations on the state of play with bed closures, has said "There is an institutional bias in the NHS against mental health and I am determined to end this." Fine words, but can he deliver?

You can hold him to account by attending the New Savoy Partnership conference at the end of next month where the success of the government's massively increased funding to mental health services over the last few years will be examined. Are we getting value for money, do you think? If not, where is the slack? Where is all that money going?

Written by Jacqui Hogan

Friday, 11 October 2013

Conference alert: Psychological Therapies in the NHS

In 2007, the government issued its first ever commitment to enable universal access for anyone with depression and anxiety to NHS-funded psychological therapies. The then Health Secretary, Alan Johnson, announced funding for a national programme, which has since been well underway.

So how has the government investment in the mental health of our nation fared? Have we seen improved access? To whom and for what conditions? What have been the measurable outcomes?

Such questions will set the agenda for the annual New Savoy Partnership Conference, entitled Psychological Therapies in the NHS: Re-thinking Psychological Therapies in the new be held at the Mermaid Conference Centre in London on Thursday 28 and Friday 29 November.

British Psychological Society Fellow, Professor Michael Barkham, will present the results of the Second National Audit of Psychological Therapies with Professor Mike Crawford and Dr Lorna Farquharson in the conference's opening keynote. Other speakers will include Norman Lamb, the Health Minister and the NHS England's National Clinical Director for Mental Health, Dr Geraldine Strathdee.

The New Savoy Partnership is a group of organisations whose aim is to bring psychological therapies to the NHS and improve access to those who need them in a timely and appropriate manner. Its annual conference aims to break new ground in policy development and present the latest findings and ongoing developments in evidence-based mental health practice.

This year's presentation of top line results from the Second National Audit promises to provide an invaluable insight into the health of NHS service provision and shed further light on the positive trends seen in the First National Audit. An excerpt from the conference promotional programme reads:

"If this event has gained a reputation for anything, it is for giving delegates the opportunity to challenge and engage with ministers, policy makers and decision-makers so they know directly from the people on the front line what doesn't work."

Fighting words then. If you'd like to have your say or find out more about the event, you can book your place and/or download the programme here.

Written by Jacqui Hogan