Autumn Newsletter - Page 11

The last word
Sue Salas of MHS gathers some sound insights
In my tenth year as a senior consultant working for Mental Health Strategies I have been reflecting on my time
working within the team. I decided to mine some of my colleagues’ best insights to share with our readers, I
have included some of them here:
James Fitton (Director at Mental health Strategies) says:
• Don’t rely on averages – if all you know is the average, you know very little. Averages are simple and
misleading. Averages are not real life. An example of this is that only 4% of babies are born on their due
date! A service might have an average of 365 referrals a year but receive three referrals on one day and
none on another. Another example is saying that all team members need to have caseload of 27 service
users. For a meaningful analysis you need to understand the variance and the likelihood and probability.
Many people don’t understand this point and change services on the basis of averages. Don’t rely on
averages! It is important to look behind them.
Dr Richard Ford (Associate Director at MHS, Registered mental Health Nurse and also a Trustee for
the Alzheimer’s Society) says:
• When you can’t understand what is going on within any service, the one thing that cuts through
this is to put yourself, where possible, in the shoes of a person who is using the service. We are all
human beings and we are not always rational and objective which means that things can be distorted. By
putting ourselves in the shoes of a person who is using the service for the first time and by visiting the
service and listening to service users we can learn more about what is happening.

And, over the years our instincts do get better but they are never perfect, It is important to go back to
check the evidence despite what you think is happening. This might involve reviewing activity and outcome
data or service costs. Talk to colleagues about what you think is happening. Talking to them may either
confirm your instincts or reveal that something else is happening. Be happy to be proven wrong. If you
have a feeling that something isn’t right then look more closely at it.
My own advice would be to:
• Look closely at those who are not accessing services and try to understand why, a great deal of time
is quite rightly spent reviewing activity and outcome data for services. However, there is also a need to
consider who is not accessing services and to take time to learn more about why this is the case.
Sometimes it is very evident which groups are not accessing services and why; there might be poor
transport links or the person might be a carer or be housebound themselves or the stigma of mental health
might be preventing access. It is important that services are designed to be as inclusive as possible and to
work hard at finding solutions to make access possible for as many people as possible. To do so
engagement with groups and communities who are not accessing services in the numbers you might
expect is necessary. Sometimes the solutions involve straightforward changes like revising the opening
hours or location of the service or working in partnership or engaging closely with other agencies and
stakeholders like 3rd sector organisations and community leaders who could help sign post people to
services in future.

Encourage innovative practice, Question practice all the time. Doing more of the same is not always the
best thing to do. Lack of funding or not having the time on top of the normal day job is frequently cited as a
reason for not being able to support innovative practice. In my experience a great deal can be
accomplished with no or little funding. Listening and encouraging staff and service users to develop ideas
does not cost money. Take time to talk through how their ideas and explore how they might work in
practice and identify one or two possible projects that sound promising. In these times of limited and
reduced funding there is a real need to think “outside the box”.

Powered by

Full screen Click to read
Paperturn flip book viewer
Download as PDF
Shopping cart
Full screen
Exit full screen