With NHS Mental Health Trusts facing unprecedented levels of pressure it’s unsurprising that many in the field are looking for new ways to respond to the challenges they face. In this environment, it is becoming increasingly clear that housing is a key issue for their service users and that by integrating housing services and expertise into the care pathways, recovery outcomes could be improved. To recognise this vision, the NHC and HACT brought professionals from both the housing and health sector together to help foster new partnerships. Held in Leeds on the 17 October, the Mental Health and Housing Conference offered attendees the chance to hear from senior leaders in the NHS, explore new evidence, and attend workshops that explore the practical opportunities for working more closely between housing and health.
As part of the morning plenaries, attendees heard from Dr Paul Gilluley, Chief Medical Officer at NHS East London Foundation Trust (NELFT). As part of his presentation, Paul discussed the important role of community forensic services, the mental health services that support service users leaving secure units and moving back into the community. Models differ throughout the country, but with a committed partnership between Look Ahead – an organisation providing support and accommodation to vulnerable people with a range of needs – NELFT, and the local authority, positive outcomes were being reported from Tabard Court. Tabard Court is a specialist supported housing unit providing engagement, support, and enablement as part of a wider borough forensic pathway. Staff are trained in relational security and specialist forensic issues and there is joint working with forensic mental health services. The feedback has been welcoming, with Clinicians praising Tabard Court for it’s “intense support in a less restrictive environment than that offered by more traditional forms of care”.
Looking at mental health from a different angle, Peter Molyneux – Chair of Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust – presented on the importance of workplace mental health. Workplace mental health is a key area in improving the attitudes of employers, the experience of employees, and the mental health of the overall population. A recent Business in the Community report, “Seizing Momentum”, had indicated that all important indicators were heading in the right direction; 60% of employees feel their line manager is genuinely concerned for their wellbeing and 64% of managers put the interests of their organisation above staff wellbeing at some point. Having said this, a lack of high-quality mental health training for line managers continues to be a pivotal issue. Thriving at Work, the Government commissioned independent review of mental health and employers recommended that organisations be equipped with the awareness and tools to not only address but prevent mental ill health caused or worsened by work. In concluding, Peter encouraged attendees to create environments that help everyone to perform well and promote bottom-up responses that give people the power to try different solutions as well as evaluate them.
Finally, Mark Trewin, Service Manager for Mental Health at Bradford Metropolitan District Council and NHS England’s Social Care and Social Work Advisor, presented on ‘building housing expertise within the NHS’. As part of this, Mark underlined the importance of local authorities and social work. Housing can for example reduce hospital admissions and help people live independently, it can support people out of acute care and act as an alternative to admission. Mark signposted attendees to the Local Government Association report ‘Being Mindful of Mental Health’ which outlines the role of local government in mental health and wellbeing. Similarly useful was HACT’s report ‘Housing and Health – Housing on the Pathway to Recovery’ which promoted an integrated “whole systems approach” to housing and Mental Health. There were many ways to achieve this, whether by promoting joint health, social care, and housing budgets, or by developing training and support systems with shared policies and staff.
As business leaders we have a responsibility to ensure the wellbeing of ourselves and our colleagues is ever present in our plans. With this in mind, the NHC and Thinking Success UK have designed two courses to support you to make mental health something continually considered while reducing the stigma of mental illness, enabling you to confidently and effectively give support those who need it.
Managing the Mental Wellbeing of Your Team will enable delegates to have an awareness of Mental health and understand the importance of looking after the mental health of themselves and their team members at work. The course will also give insight into mental illness, the impact within business and how to successfully identify signs of mental illness within individuals.
Mental Health within your Customers is aimed at anyone that deals with the public within their role, whether face to face or over the telephone. The course will give delegates an awareness of mental health and mental illness and how this can drive behaviour within their customers and help them understand how to spot the signs of mental illness and how to manage the situations effectively to ensure wellbeing of customers while ensuring business processes and completed correctly and they themselves stay confident and safe.