Realising Potential: An Action Plan for Allied Health Professionals in Mental Health

Realising Potential: An Action Plan for Allied Health Professionals in Mental Health

The action plan - where now?

A comment from the Chief Executive of the National Schizophrenia Fellowship (Scotland) and the VOX (Voices Of eXperience) Development Coordinator

The first thing to say is to congratulate the Scottish Government on developing this excellent three-year action plan. It reflects the fact that service users, families and carers see AHPs as a very valuable resource. We all want to see access to AHPs enhanced and for more people to know what they can offer, and the action plan is very much pushing in the right direction on this issue, complementing developments currently under way in NHS 24 to increase AHPs' triage and tele-rehabilitation capacity.

The action plan sits very well with other important pieces of work referred to in the main text that are supporting service delivery and new developments such as the "My View" service user self-assessment tool currently being adapted by NHS Quality Improvement for use in Scotland.

The creation of the action plan was a very inclusive process, allowing those on the receiving end of AHP services - service users, families and carers - to have a real say in defining the priorities for action. In focusing on issues such as early interventions, timely access, self-management, the importance of recovery (and the SRI), good physical health and meaningful (and appropriate) activity, it reflects the issues the people we work with identify as being important.

But we would take this opportunity to say to AHP managers and practitioners who will be implementing the action plan's recommendations that in adopting an understandable and very welcome person-centred focus on service users, don't forget families and carers.

A workshop at the March 2010 national conference held as part of the consultation on the development of the action plan asked AHPs to identify benefits in working with families to support the service user. The AHPs were able to present a long list of "pluses" relating to issues such as increasing service user confidence, developing relationships, providing more joined-up services, reducing stress and enhancing care package delivery. It showed that AHPs know service users don't live in a bubble, and that families and carers are central to their recovery.

But families and carers are also potentially vulnerable to the stresses caring brings and need effective support from engaged and informed AHPs. We want to send a strong plea that in taking this action plan forward, NHS boards, AHP leads and, most importantly, practising AHPs maintain a families and carers focus.

We also want to stress that while AHPs in mental health are doing tremendous work, supporting service users, families and carers is a responsibility for allAHPs, regardless of service setting. We regularly hear stories of how AHPs in so-called "mainstream" settings are providing important interventions - dietitians working with service users to offset the weight-gain problems common with anti-psychotic medication, for instance. It is very pleasing to see this important message being emphasised in the action plan.

The involvement of all AHPs in delivering mental health interventions also improves the prospects of enhancing service users' abilities to provide support to fellow service users through peer relationships - AHPs have all the skills needed to facilitate this exciting opportunity.

In uncertain financial times, using what we have better is a sensible way to go. We believe this action plan sets out a route to using the AHP resource better for service users, families and carers, and we look forward to seeing its full implementation over the next three years.

Mary Weir, Chief Executive
National Schizophrenia Fellowship (Scotland)

Wendy McAuslan, Development Coordinator
VOX (Voices Of eXperience)

" [The course] gives you a focus [on] something to do every week ... [it is] going to give [me] a qualification at the end to use and the support we get from the occupational therapists and the College is brilliant. "

Service user

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