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Committed staff at the coalface will make a huge difference in changing the way mental health is taken care of in the NHS, writes Errol Archer

The Transforming Mental Health Congress in December brought together many leaders and innovators in the field. Delegates were reminded of the ambitious aims of the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health; to achieve parity of esteem between mental and physical health, to deliver integrated physical and mental health care and to encourage a cross-government approach to mental health, including addressing inequalities in society.

We heard of the recent trend of celebrities sharing their personal experiences of poor mental health and of high profile campaigns such as Heads Together supported by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry. Even the prime minister has recognised that more needs to be done.

This greater openness and awareness all helps but as one delegate asked, “Is this another false dawn for mental health?” Having advised service users, carers and now providers in the sector since the mid-1990s, I can sympathise with the delegate’s doubts.

As a lawyer, my focus at the conference was on regulation in the sector. We heard the secrets behind how East London Foundation Trust joined the two per cent of mental health trusts rated Outstanding by the Care Quality Commission.

One thing the trust did was empower all staff to get involved with Quality Improvement, working with staff to co-produce QI plans using ideas put forward by staff, who then implemented the plans. This not only resulted in a better care experience for service users but also evidenced things that the CQC look for during an inspection around safety, responsiveness and effectiveness of care.

So while we wait for the seeds of the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health to bloom, as ever in this sector, it will be the caring, committed and as East London FT has seen, highly creative, staff at the coalface who will continue to make a huge difference to those in need of care and treatment for their mental health.

Errol Archer is senior associate solicitor at Ridouts