Threatened action forces halt to mental health reorganisation

The Mental Health / ASC shop has forced a 6 month halt to plans by the local Mental Health NHS Trust (Camden & Islington Foundation Trust – CIFT) to have a major re-organisation in the way Mental Health Act assessments are organised in Camden. The proposal was to end a system that had been running smoothly for around 6 years, and would have led to a much worse service for people needing treatment in psychiatric hospital.

There had been no meaningful consultation with Approved Mental Health Professionals (AMHPs), who would have to implement the new system (a Trust wide day time AMHP Duty Service with just one manager and one administrator over-seeing Mental Health Act assessments in both Camden and Islington. The shop-stewards consulted with all the AMHPs in Camden and got in touch with UNISON reps in Islington. We proposed to keep the system we have in Camden and are supporting plans in Islington to have its own AMHP Duty Service with its own dedicated manager and its own dedicated administrator.

We felt that the re-organisation of AMHP Duty was not thought through properly. We were concerned that it would lead to AMHPs in both boroughs feeling unsupported and would lead to a fragmentation of services, with each AMHP having to organise Mental Health Act assessments on Camden residents without the support of an AMHP Duty Service.

We used Camden UNISON’s ‘Survey Monkey’ account to survey all AMHPS working in Camden on the proposals. We set out an alternative to the Trust’s plan, and concrete proposals around AMHPs taking action to stop the implementation. Around 90% of the AMHPs completed the survey and all of them were in favour of keeping the Camden only AMHP Duty Service (the UNISON preferred option). 80 % of the AMHPs were willing to boycott the new Trust – wide service and 70% were willing to stop being AMHPs if the new service went ahead.

Local Authorities are legally obliged to ensure there are enough AMHPs to cover the Mental Health Act assessments in their borough. Camden does around 550 MHA assessments each year on their day time AMHP Duty Service – which the borough would not have been able to do if the AMHPs had refused to carry out that role.

We backed this up with regular shop meetings and discussions with the Adult Social Care  UNISON convenor, Phoebe Watkins. This culminated on 3rd October with a senior LB Camden manager in ASC calling a halt to the proposed changes for 6 months until a thorough investigation into its effects are carried out by Trust managers.

The shop feels that this is only a temporary reprieve. We will keep up the pressure to secure a decent service for those people needing psychiatric hospital admission, and ensure that AMHPs are properly supported in this very difficult and stressful job.

The key to this success has been to use any means available to rally support from the members. It showed that a united shop can successfully influence and put pressure on managers to listen and consult properly with staff. While the support of front-line managers helped, we believe that the demonstration of unity to oppose the plans is what ultimately led to senior managers calling a halt to the changes.

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