Today our Board had a challenging discussion about our future strategy; one in which we reflected on our previous aspirations and the changing world in which we find ourselves.
When we took on community services, we had a vision we could make a real difference to people’s lives. By aligning community and mental health services within the same organisation, we felt local people could truly benefit from a 'whole person' service approach; bringing physical and mental health together.
We wanted to showcase the combined impact that these two complementary 'Cinderella' services could make - to support the hospitals buckling under the strain and, mostly importantly, help change lives. We felt that we could provide a local voice and also a safe haven and nurturing environment for our community services.
We have achieved some great things, particularly around children's and older people services, the two ends of life's full spectrum. Our physical health services benefited from a psychological perspective and vice versa.
But, for a whole host of reasons, we have not been able to fully realise the vision we had for integrated, whole person care.
Now, with the rise of local care organisations (LCOs), we are seeing strong locality ownership for improvement, with a desire for local providers to be very visible and active within borough-based partnerships.
While people have worked very hard to do this for both mental health and community services, we have struggled to represent all elements of our portfolio with the same strong voice in each LCO.
And that has brought us to today. With a heavy heart, but a huge dose of realism, the recommendations in the position paper on our future strategy were approved by our board this afternoon. Click here to read our position paper.
As you know, it proposes that we look at community services developing as part of local care organisations and concentrate our efforts on mental health and learning disability services in their widest sense. Allowing both to extend, enhance and fulfil their potential for the benefit of local people in this changing new world.
It was good to see around 30 people in attendance at the board meeting, nearly all of those staff. We opened up the meeting for public questions on our strategy position paper, which included queries about specific services, next steps and possible future providers.
We understand and respect the different emotions that people are feeling, which include disappointment and worries about the future. And we want to always work and behave with complete integrity and compassion. The questions provided an opportunity for us to talk about close partnerships, strong relationships with commissioners and being a strong local alliance member, as the future is about collaboration.
This is all about people and we talked about our responsibilities as a board to never do anything detrimental to patient care.
While the Board has approved the direction of travel in principle, we need to gather lots of views before our final strategy goes to our board in December.
It's been a journey to get us to this first stage. I hope that the time many services have been with us has been well spent, but accept that this time may be coming to an end.
We should always do the right things for the right reasons, even if it's hard. And that includes acknowledging we might not be the best organisation to continue providing a service.
So, let's keep talking. We want to hear your views and will be putting plans in place to do this. Let's all help shape the future.
Dr Henry Ticehurst