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Letter from mental health staff adds pressure for independent review

Letter from mental health staff adds pressure for independent review

Friday 25 February 2022

Letter from mental health staff adds pressure for independent review

Friday 25 February 2022


It has emerged that a group of staff working for the States in mental health wrote a highly critical letter about the island’s services to politicians and senior officials. The letter – authored anonymously but verified in information passed to Express - was received in the period between an external review of mental health services in 2018 and the Committee for Health & Social Care publishing a glowing summary of the review just three months ago.

In 2018, the Committee set up a review of the island’s mental health services. It was carried out by David Gedze, a social worker based in the UK.

In December 2020, the group of staff – some with long experience in mental health – wrote anonymously to a number of politicians and senior officials in the health service setting out a highly critical commentary of the management and operation of adult mental health services.

Almost exactly a year later, at the end of November 2021, the Committee for Health & Social Care published a summary of Mr Gedze’s report, which included an assertion that “Guernsey has good mental health services, which in many ways are as good as or better than those in most countries in the world…[t]he services are well resourced, providing a wide range of clinical interventions to meet the needs of the population”.

The Committee for Health & Social Care yesterday confirmed that it received “an anonymous letter purporting to be from some staff within the mental health service” after Express obtained an email written at the time by the then Director of Operations at Health & Social Care to other managers in which he asked them to “help [us] manage this issue across mental health and with pace please”.

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Pictured: The email obtained by Express - reproduced with appropriate redactions - confirms that the Committee for Health & Social Care received the highly critical letter claiming to be from staff within mental health services in the period between Mr Gedze's review and its publication of a glowing summary of his report. 

The e mail from the then Director of Operations, Matt Jones, confirmed receipt of “a letter which has been sent to a number of political members and senior leaders across the organisation”.

“The letter states it has been written by staff within the mental health service, but is otherwise anonymous. It is very critical of our mental health service, what it achieves and its leadership," said Mr Jones.

He said the authenticity of the letter was difficult to establish given that its authors wished to remain anonymous, but he acknowledged the possibility of “genuine concerns which our normal channels for staff engagement and dialogue have not, for whatever reason, addressed".

Mr Jones said the letter claiming to be from staff “is written in such a way that it will undoubtedly generate concern".

He encouraged colleagues to report any concerns to a line manager and said that after this a summary would be provided to senior officials. 

He also invited staff with concerns to participate in a confidential listening service led by an experienced nurse from within the health service.

  

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Pictured: The concluding section of the email sent by the then Director of Operations soon after receipt of the highly critical letter from a group of people claiming to be staff in mental health services.

Several deputies have criticised Mr Gedze's report and argued that it was insufficiently independent and put together without adequate transparency

Deputy Lester Queripel has repeatedly called for mental health services in the Bailiwick to be subject to a "comprehensive review by a non-biased independent body".

Speaking a few weeks ago, following the Committee's publication of Mr Gedze's glowing summary of mental health services, Deputy Gavin St. Pier said: "I am concerned that some of those working in the service and some service users may not readily recognise this report with their experience of the current service in 2021.

"Given the commendable commitment to continuous improvement, I hope Mr Gedze will also have the opportunity to meet service users or those that represent them when he visits in the New Year."


Health & Social Care Committee

Pictured: The current Committee for Health & Social Care was elected in October 2020 - after David Gedze's review of mental health services but before a highly critical letter claiming to be from staff working in mental health was sent to some politicians and senior officials. 

Dermot Mullin, who is now the Committee for Health & Social Care's Director of Operations, yesterday responded to Express' questions on the letter from anonymous staff, the Committee's response and the timeline. 

He confirmed that two years after Mr Gedze’s report was completed "we received an anonymous letter purporting to be from some staff within the mental health service".

"This did not mention the Gedze review or its findings, so to link this anonymous letter to the Gedze review would be misleading," said Mr Mullin. 

“It is also always very difficult to respond to anonymous letters as, without the ability to verify authors [or] origin, the content is difficult to verify and may be based on vexatious or disgruntled individuals. 

“However, on this occasion, an email was sent to all managers within mental health services seeking to provide additional avenues for any concerns to be raised.

"We received many responses stating how proud the various teams were to work for the service and for the support they provided those in need.”

READ MORE...

HSC publishes glowing report on island's mental health services 

HSC summary sparks calls for more scrutiny of mental health services

Pictured (top): Deputy Al Brouard, President of the Committee for Health & Social Care.

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