Justifiably, the Trust's many achievements were proudly reported to those present. BUT. Sadly, almost despairingly, those present, maybe 50-70 people, were, overwhelmingly, professionals, clinicians and administrators. Service Users (their term Patients) were in a minority of, as far as I could see, under 5%. Class and status rules! The suits well to the fore (and yes, well could be a verb too and I'm not apologising for the golf pun)!
As I said, the Trust's achievements are undeniable, and applause for those - but the whole concept of foundation status is to enhance the Trust's democratic operation - how many members has it? Their document says
The membership as at 31st March 2007 is 9,759 Public Constituency and 3,367 Staff Constituency giving a total membership of 13,126I don't really have to say any more.
But I will. Communication with its Public constituency, certainly from my own standpoint, has been practically non-existent. As a member, I've heard nothing pro-actively from the Trust since it was awarded foundation status. This is illustrated by the fact that the first time I set eyes on their April 2007 edition newsheet Trust News (the latest?) was when I picked it up at the AGM. I only knew of the AGM because I happened to spot a small advert in the local paper. There was no member notification.
At Foundation Trust inception details were taken from all those on line. I specified e mail as my preferred communication method - nothing!!!
It was very pleasing to see a separate presentation on Equality by the Deputy Director of Human Resources, Liz Cooke. And it was an excellent presentation.
But would this not have been more pertinent, escaping the these days common criticism of tokenism, if the presentation had been by a service user?
And why, afterwards, did I have to point out there was no provision for people with sensory difficulties at the AGM and that I could not, being landed myself with single sided deafness, hear people speaking at the other side of the room because there was no microphone provided.
My Equality questions also included (as nothing was mentioned in the presentation):
(a) What is the Trust now doing, since it made no provision in its initial constitution for representation - to network with mental health organisations, especially in the light of current national concerns about the neglect of people with mental health problems who also have physical medical needs, with the aims of raising staff awareness of mental health, ensuring appropriate medical treatment and promoting rights under the Disability Equality Duty.
The Chairman of the Trust, John Hemming, addressed this from the stage saying:
1. they have regular lines of contact with the Norfolk and Waveney Mental Health NHS Trust;
2. they have regular contact with the Norfolk Mental Health PPI forum;
3. that staff are, at present, attending a meeting about Learning Difficulties!!!
(b) What is the Trust doing about ensuring the private and independent companies the Trust commissions observe the Trust's Disability Equality Scheme?
Liz Cooke said she thinks there is a procurement clause in the DES but she will check this and raise awareness.
To their credit, the Trust say they already have a continuing group of
local disabled representatives to ensure their views and concerns were captured in our planning. We are now working together on our action plan for the coming year.
John Hemming publicly invited me, as Chair of the Norfolk Police Disability Duty Forum, to join this group and, in the interests of good networking, I agreed. However, Liz came over to speak after the AGM and suggested my presence in the group be deferred as they are in the middle of some current issues.
Watch this space.