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Can we trust the Trust? The changing landscape of welfare reform! / 24 February 2012

photo of St Bernard's Gate, covered in ivy

Photo of St Bernard's Gate by Joe Kelly

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Serious questions are beginning to emerge about future healthcare for people with Mental Health difficulties in West London. The under-performing West London Mental Health Trust, severely criticised in the recent Care Quality Commission Reports, is probably to be merged with the Central and North West NHS Foundation Trust or another Trust? An alternative plan of action is unfolding as various serious problems emerge. The West London Mental Health Trust as Chief Executive Peter Cubbons, who is now on long-term sick leave, is due to step down together with two of his main Senior Managers leaving the WLMH Trust.

Coalition Government NHS reforms are becoming evident; testing the good sense of local people in Ealing, Hammersmith and Hounslow, which is the catchment area of the Trust. In particular the John Conolly Wing, serving the ordinary mental health patients is to be demolished as part of a rebuilding programme for the benefit of forensic service. The forensic service is a separate service for the mental health patients who have been sentenced by the law courts. The John Conolly unit has recently been refurbished costing £6 million. This is a massive waste of public money and resources.

Nearby some of the old St Bernards Victorian Buildings, which are of heritage quality such as the WLMH Trust HQ, The St Bernard’s Church with its and Magnolia Lodge are to be asset stripped and sold off as residential dwellings no longer serving the Ealing public. I noticed that the ornamental ironwork disappeared without mention sometime ago. A foreboding of things to come. Many of the remaining buildings are to be demolished for redevelopment.

Service users have had no opportunity to input or participate in this process. As a service user survivor we often feel the need to show good faith, from today I think those in authority need to show good faith to the service users? These acts, and the lock of openness, are a demonstration of the breaking trust between the authorities the patients.

Some years ago in another merger Broadmoor Hospital was merged with St Bernard’s Hospital. Medium secure forensic patients are helped on the St Bernards site. If you visit the rear of the site you will see the various buildings with high fences and CCTV.

Now the Broadmoor forensic service seems to be the dominant partner in this partnership. Consequently ordinary, non-forensic, mental health patients are loosing out. The Broadmoor take over of the site is a trend that is hard to understand or know the full story? This is a massive unexpected change, which highlight important policy changes not being shared with the public.

The Trust is to become a Foundation Trust in 2013. In order to accomplish this the Trust needs to sign up 1200 members, recruit more support from users and carers. Being disproportionately forensic to mainstream mental health is a legislative barrier that is to be changed by The Government in a new round of new laws in 2013.

Those who know the site will know that Ealing Hospital [The General Hospital, non psychiatric] also uses the eastern end of the site. Ealing Hospital is also under threat? [See earlier Blog]

Originally the whole site was much bigger but in the Thatcher period half the then site was sold for housing. Many of the Victorian buildings becoming very desirable period dwellings. The Green spaces between the old ward blocks providing space for sympathetic modern infill buildings.

The value of the land and the building was massive amount to the public exchequer, but no one ever the people what the sum was? As a patient, many years ago I found the green spaces therapeutic and calming for my health. The therapeutic value of green open spaces is now well recognised by groups such as MIND.

The horrible fiasco only highlights how the mental health service are plundered and abused by those in power for their own purposes. Land values in Ealing are extremely high and the community is very short of good sites to serve the local people. If you look on Google Earth you’ll notice the adjoining land is Warren Farm. This was once the farm for the Old Middlesex Asylum. The earlier name for St Bernard’s. This land grab asset stripping process is not new.

Anxiety about NHS reforms is much in evidence in the country. The NHS is an Institution that is seriously valued by British People. Prime Minister David Cameron reassured us, when elected, that the NHS was safe in his hands, our anxieties have been justified

I would advise people in Ealing, Hounslow and Hammersmith to contact their MP, GLA rep, Local Ward Councillor about the issues raised in this blog, and appeal to fellow user survivors to work through their local groups. NSUN [National Survivor User Network]  run the network for London.


Alan Collins

2 March 2012

Hi Joe!

I posted a significant comment yesterday on your CAN WE TRUST THE TRUST article: This question of course is rather long overdue! I remember sitting among "users" at a meeting with St. Bernard's management who were implementing this first capitalist/privatising attack on the National(ized) Health Service and trying to tell my friends on our side of this service that we certainly could not trust anyone who supported the introduction of the profit motive by privatised companies in a service previously free of such motives! People like Frank Marnell and a woman who became involved in the Users Group in Hanwell (as long as that office lasted!) were dead keen on being involved, imagining in their fevered minds that somehow this meant that the people providing the usual heavy handed and socially isolating drug treatment were willing to listen to their complaints, and actually have some positive effect on their lives.

This is not to say that what your have been doing in your group has had no positive effects, of course, but you may have realised that any true debate about the drug industry that has been developed to profit from mental illness and discuss alternative methods of treatment has been controlled by those who believe that all they can afford to do is to use drugs to control the self-destructive or pathologically violent mental patient; while allowing them to sit around talking to themselves and trying to get the authorities to pay for the additional Cognitive Behaviour Therapy or psychotherapy and counselling which is offered only to those who can afford to pay for private mental health care! Such as those pop idols who pay enormous sums of money to be helped to deal with their alcohol or heroin addictions. In a sense, most symptoms of mental illness may be seen to be addictive behavioural habits, of some sort; i.e. self-destructive thoughts and feelings of anger, shame, or guilt, which have not been fully analysed and resolved. However, I was never so gullible or naive, to imagine that this USER involvement initiative was any more than part of a right-wing political attack to cut costs in this area of the NHS.

You raise the issue of the wholesale territorial attack and take-over of the acres of old hospital grounds which I once enjoyed as common land, when I rightly felt that it belonged to patients, like myself, who wished to enjoy walking there and to sit in the sun under the trees; protected from the so-called rat-race on the other side of its surrounding wall. I know that the ditch, on our side of this previously existing wall, was intended to stop mental patients, such as myself, from escaping; but on the other hand it was a reminder that I was no longer seen as part of the economically exploited labour force on the other side, (whether working class or middle class, or management) which has been brainwashed to admire and emulate the filthy rich aristocrats, bankers and businessmen, who inflated whatever financial savings they could afford to make, in order to render their slavery - or captivity - permanent or infinite; on the other side of that protective wall!

As such this enclosed space was felt to be a protection from the evils of an unfair social and economic system which favoured the rich and privately educated minority: the public-schoolboys (and girls) who are paid enormous salaries to enjoy life as Members of Parliament and see themselves as superior to the people whose interests and aspirations they are supposed to represent.

It might be gratifying to see that you have realised that you have been funded to support people who are really your enemies, and whose real aim is to use your efforts to improve the lives of mental patients (including your own) by co-operating with them and volunteering your time in an effort to gain not only their approval but their full support. This support has always been conditional on saving costs; and they have always tried to control anything that might seriously challenge the aim close wards and cut services, leaving people like you in place of professionally trained counsellors and therapists, who would be willing to consider a more spiritual outlook within a new therapeutic regime. This, of course, may only take place when this whole charade has been exposed and come tumbling down, in the way that has been taking place, since we last met!

I have continued doing what I consider to be my alternative career as a mental patients advocate, and social worker; but under my own direction and with no controlling puppet strings by seeking any sort of official approval. I am still in touch with patients in your area who have remained friends, who report back about what you have been doing, etc. I really don't mean to undermine your involvement; but I cannot see anything to be gained by allowing oneself to be controlled by the piper who pays for the song, because the song about how mental patients really should be cared and treated is not one which many of the members of the psychiatric profession want to hear! They do not want to admit that the pain felt by patients is a reflection of the evils of the totally uncontrolled laissez faire capitalist system!

A wagon needs two wheel if it is to run smoothly: with capitalist incentives as one wheel, and socialist ideals as the other wheel. The nordic countries have got 70% socialism to 30% capitalism and have therefore created much fairer societies, with progressive educational and health facilities, not to say prison facilities, as well! That is the only direction where we shall be able to find the future answers to how we should treat and cure mental illness. The new methods are not yet even being properly discussed, because the causes of mental illness are not fully understood.

Basically, all mental illness is the result of some form of dissociative disorder, where consciousness has been divided into separate areas, where we are not fully conscious of painful memories and instinctual reactions to past events which have remained suppressed. This might be said to be a reasonable description of those people diagnosed as manic-depressives. However there are astral entities which invade the emotional and mental bodies, which are part of the problems faced by those people diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. These entities can only be controlled or evicted from their human habitats by new forms of treatment which will become available in the future.

I leave you to consider that on the horizon we can see an effort to emulate the broken ideology of the land of the free, in America, where greed and selfishness rule and no one cares about the working class and middle class community who have lost their jobs during this breakdown of capitalism. The trillionaires have all taken their funds and invested them in India, where they are building nightmarish concrete apartments around the big cities and offering factory work to the skilled natives so that they can emulate a western lifestyle. They are running at this promise of wealth and material goods as if it is their own dream, rather than the American dream/nightmare; while the Chinese are using those funds to generate their own independent political and economic power base. As such, China and India will soon take over from the failing capitalist system in America and UK, whole those 75 odd multimillionaire families who own the majority of the money in the western hemisphere do not care at all, as long as they get the profits from their usury.

By the way; my Ashram in India has laid the foundations for a new house for me, where I will be going to live and work in a couple of years. We have a place where about 1,000 orphans are being cared for; where they are fed and clothed and looked after. We have a school on that site, and are now building a big hospital for the use of the local people for free health care. A friend of mine, from Totnes, has invested all his inherited money to build an art college there, as well; and we have been bringing over art canvas from south Indian artists and selling them in London to raise funds and help them to make a living. With the collapse of the market we are now going to take the canvas back and sell them in India to the upwardly mobile middle class of India. Unfortunately the governments are all what I would define as unofficial mafia families: but that's another story... different place, same game!

I suppose the above thoughts are enough to either bore you to death, or inspire you in some way? I dunno; but let me know what you think!

A lorra lorra luv,

Alan Collins.

Andrea Tierney

29 February 2012

Hi Joe,

I read your blog with great interest. You put your finger on the very centre of what's happening now everywhere in the NHS. As one NHS worker recently called it on the news 'The carpetbaggers have arrived'. Assets are being stripped and the community which has fought for decades to have decent services, is having to watch it all disappear. The heavy Tory mob are moving in helped by over a decade of Labour preparing the way. Hospital Trusts have to choose between bancruptcy and selling off land and buildings to pay the heavy loan commitments strapped to their backs by the PPI. We should call for these dealings to be made public. Then the whole criminal actions by this and the previous government will become clear.

Thanks for your blog!

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