Charity calls for clear leadership in mental health

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IT is vital that there is clear leadership within the government’s mental-health service, a charity representative has said after uncertainty arose around the long-term future of the top position.

Karen Wilson, a trustee with charity Focus on Mental Illness, made the comments after it was revealed that Andy Weir, the service’s new director, had been recruited on a temporary secondment basis – something not mentioned within a press release announcing his appointment.

The government has since said Mr Weir is standing in for Rob Sainsbury, the group managing director for Health and Community Services – who has been seconded to Education – and his contract, therefore, could not be made permanent.

Officials have been unable to confirm whether there will be another dedicated director of mental health or if the position would eventually be absorbed into Mr Sainsbury’s role with the situation being ‘dependent on the outcome of both secondments’.

The former associate medical director for mental health, Dr Miguel Garcia-Alcaraz, stepped down in October.

Ms Wilson said: ‘Insofar as we are concerned we will be looking to the performance of the new director of mental health and how he delivers to people with mental illnesses and seeing that their needs are met but we also recognise the issues around longer-term employment.

‘Having a temporary arrangement – I do not think it is ideal and we will continue to put pressure on government to find a permanent director as soon as possible.’

A review into mental-health services published in November found that there was a lack of leadership, poor management supervision and inadequate systems to learn from serious incidents.

At the time the government said it was ‘committed to improving’ the situation.

Asked whether she would be comfortable with the director of mental health role being absorbed into another position, Ms Wilson added: ‘We will wait and see but for me it is very important that we have a clear leadership role in place and we do not want to see that diluted.

‘It is a very important function that needs to be fulfilled by someone with dedicated expertise which had been lacking during the previous arrangement and there needs to be leadership at the highest level so that we get the representation and stewardship of mental health.’

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