Musings on the NHS mental health service

Before I go on, it is only fair to say that my musings on the NHS mental health service are just my opinion based on my own observation and experience.

I recently had the amazing honour of being a panel member for two days at Surrey University that was interviewing potential candidates for the PhD Psychology course. There were several panels each consisting of a senior psychologist, a PhD student and a selected member of the public.

Each panel member had equal weight and authority, in fact I was panel chairman for the second day. The purpose of the day was that candidates would face interviews and tests. The course attracts around 600 applicants that have to be whittled down to 30.

The panel that I was on was to assess the personal suitability of each candidate- their experience, professionalism, flexibility, empathy, their ability to build rapport and also to see the bigger picture.

I was really impressed with what I observed. The NHS is full of highly skilled people who really care about helping others who have mental health problems. They have a deep and detailed knowledge and at times can provide outstanding support.

I was impressed with the support that individual therapists get from their colleagues and supervisors.

It is fashionable to complain about the NHS, all I can say is that I met many dedicated staff over the two days.

The other side of the coin is that almost all candidates commented on the lack of funds going into mental health and how that is watering down some services, and occasionally leading to poor interventions and mistakes.

It was also interesting to note that only some candidates and NHS staff seem able to think about mental health outside the NHS bubble. They don’t seem to acknowledge that solutions can be found in all sorts of ways and all sorts of places, and that restricts their creativity and ability to create holistic solutions. And I feel they would be lost without their supervisor looking over their shoulder.

As a private therapist, my experience is almost the opposite. As a sole trader, I have had to develop my own support network. On the other hand, I am not tied to process as the NHS tends to be, and I can be creative. I can meet people for therapy in a park, or a café, or even personally support them in situations where they have irrational fears such as going in a lift, or for a drive on the motorway.

So it was for me a great snapshot of the strengths and weaknesses of NHS mental health services. I think is very reassuring that Surrey University go to such great lengths to find the best PhD students, and also that they allow people from outside into the assessment process. Every system has strengths and weaknesses, but I am reassured that the NHS is doing the best they can in difficult times.

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