STRIKE WINS REVIEW OF ‘CHANGE IN MIND’ RE-ORGANISATION

Mental health bosses in Manchester have agreed to review a controversial reorganisation, which lead to a strike and the sacking of a union rep.
More than a hundred members of the union UNISON will return to work on Monday after a five week walk-out in support of their victimised colleague Karen Reissmann.
Karen, a nurse, was sacked for speaking to the media about the transfer of NHS care to the voluntary sector leading to worse conditions for mental health workers.
As part of a return-to-work agreement, management at the Chorlton-based Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust will meet UNISON representatives to discuss the union members’concerns.
The reorganisation, called Change in Mind, was introduced in August 2007.
It meant that crisis resolution and assertive outreach teams were increased, using money saved by massively cutting the ten community mental health teams.
Karen said: “The management made a commitment to UNISON reps in negotiations to have an urgent review of the implementation of Change in Mind and the problems that have arisen as a result.
“A UNISON rep has been asked to provide a list of our concerns for a meeting on Monday, December 17. After that there will be daily meetings to review the return to work.
“Without the strike we would never have achieved this. My colleagues have got the message through to
management. They can return to work with their heads held high.”
Karen lost an appeal against dismissal last week.
UNISON is planning to take her case to an employment tribunal and to continue a political campaign for her reinstatement.
Seven of the strikers have volunteered to become new union reps to carry on Karen’s work in the trust.

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SHAMEFUL! Paul Abbott’s verdict on mental health provision and Karen’s sacking

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‘Shameless’ writer, Paul Abbott has written the following letter of support to Karen Reissmann

Dear Karen

So sorry I can’t be with you at the rally in your support, but sadly, I’m committed to appointments abroad.

I hope you already know how much admiration I have for you and your colleagues now striking in defence of your outspoken feelings about the alarming state of mental health services in Manchester, which for years we all know, were woefully underfunded in the first place – nevermind the sheer madness of cutbacks.

They could wave as many spreadsheets as they want to justify the economics of this…but what’s betting the number-crunching won’t include the damage to Britain’s economy from the needless suffering of
undiagnosed mental illness in our citizens, which, if treated earlier, and professionally, can prevent the pointlessly heartbreaking destruction of people and their families.

Prescription charges for anti-depressants alone cost £36m a year. Add to this the national loss of work hours, and the vast expenditure on long-term disability from welfare support…and tell me there’s a single atom of sense in their arithmetic to justify the economics of this. There isn’t. Never could be.

At 15, I was sectioned for my own protection following a suicide attempt. Back then, I experienced the privilege of help and support from nurses amongst other mental health practitioners to see me patiently
through that crisis. Without them, I wouldn’t be alive today.

The thought of ever going back to that jet-black underworld still haunts me constantly. But if I had no choice….surely in all decency I’d deserve MORE specialist nurses like Karen Reissmann to HELP me break my fall…NOT half the number doing their work on a fraction of the funding spent 30 years ago.

We pay the Health Trust salaries – we, the shareholders. In effect, we subsidise their families. Can we get a pledge that Shelia Foley and her teams at Manchester Mental Health Trust team will be held accountable for the catastrophic consequences of their negligence?

Using crass free-market economics on public-funded mental health services, is honestly far more deluded than I was the day they sectioned me. If Manchester Mental Health Trust aren’t up to basic adding and
subtracting, it’s time we had THEIR jobs… not Karen Reissmann’s.

PAUL ABBOTT
21 NOVEMBER 2007.

For more information contact Karen Reissmann, branch chair, 07972 120 451
Andy Gill, Unison regional officer 0161 211 1000
Caroline Bedale, branch secretary, 07931 152 001

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THIS IS THE INTERVIEW THAT GOT KAREN REISSMANN THE SACK…

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In sickness and in health

You can also read this interview by clicking on the link THE INTERVIEW THAT GOT KAREN REISSMANN SACKED 

While ministers are promoting social enterprise as a solution to problems in the NHS, campaigners against health service privatisation are sceptical. Karen Reissman is a leading member of anti-privatisation campaigns in Manchester. Sarah Irving heard her concerns about social enterprises in mental health provision…

Karen Reissman is an experienced community psychiatric nurse working in North Manchester, and although she welcomes some of the changes in the NHS over the last decade, she is deeply unhappy about others. “I’ve had 5 employers in the last 13 years,” she says. “Each time the new headed notepaper and name badges costs thousands. Does it improve anything? No.”

She is concerned about the privatisation of NHS services, including by transfer to the voluntary sector and social enterprise, because of the effects she sees for both staff and patients.

She worries that voluntary sector and social enterprise organisations can win tenders through cutting costs, and this can mean lower standards of care and poorer conditions for workers on the mental health front line:
“One of Manchester’s current assertive outreach teams is voluntary sector. One of the main things this has meant is that experienced NHS staff have been replaced with inexperienced staff,” she explains. “This is partly because the voluntary sector organisation pays less, and because staff moving to it lose their NHS or local authority pensions.

“Experienced staff are likely to be older and therefore more concerned about their pensions, so they are very unlikely to want to move to new social enterprise sector organisations. This means that some of the most severely mentally ill people in the area are being cared for by people who themselves are newly qualified or in some cases trained in-house.”

Another concern is that the transfer of mental health services can also mean a shift in the culture and priorities of organisations. While Karen acknowledges that workers in social enterprise organisations are genuinely committed to their patients’ care, she questions whether the organisations themselves can really meet the demands of the sector:
“One of the other areas being shifted to private sector organisations are community living projects, which run schemes such as arts projects and occupational activities,” she describes. “A lot of these have been or are facing being turned into social enterprise organisations. My concern would be that this changes them from primarily being a treatment and therapy service to an entity which has to break even.

“Staff then spend their time looking for funding and subsidies, or trying to cut costs, rather than delivering the care they want to and which patients need. It downgrades the situation for both staff and patients and moves the organisation from being mainly a service to being a commercial organisation which has to keep its eyes on the bottom line.

“There is one award-winning national project which uses art for people with mental health issues, some of whom have been very damaged by their illness, and helps them express themselves and get some fulfilment from life. Some of the artwork produced might be sold, but that happens in individual cases if it’s appropriate and it helps the patient. It faces becoming a social enterprise, and then selling work or being part of projects that bring in funding will become much more of a motivation.”

According to Karen, privatisation of the NHS in Manchester is proceeding quickly, fragmenting teams and cutting resources, including reducing the number of mental health beds in the region and making it harder for community nurses like her to spend adequate time with their patients.
“There are several bits of privatisation going on in the Manchester area at the moment,” she says. “Four of the Community Mental Health Teams are up for private tender at the moment, and it is likely that some of these will go to joint NHS/voluntary sector projects.”

Mental health workers in Manchester are currently balloting for strike action against privatisation and cuts in community mental health teams. “The chaos is frustrating, but it also motivates people to do something if we can get them organised,” argues Karen. “As bad as it is, it would have been worse if we hadn’t acted.

“Thatcher tried to tell people that private was good, public bad. She convinced some, but when they saw the privatised rail services they came to their senses.”

For more information on NHS Campaigns in Manchester see www.stopthecuts.nr

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“We cannot run the NHS on the basis that anyone who expresses dissent is for the chop” – by Martin Rathfelder, Director Socialist Health Association

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As you know, Karen Reissmann has been sacked by the Manchester Mental Health Care Trust. 

I have now got a copy of the article which got her into bother and it is reproduced below. (see separate post: The interview which got Karen sacked

Also below is something from the PCT website which make substantially the same point Karen was making, but much more bluntly, and naming the voluntary organisation concerned.

I have kept clear of this dispute up to now partly because I didn’t have the full story and partly because I know that Karen is a well known political activist and troublemaker as far as the Trust is concerned.  However she is also an elected member of Unison’s National Health Group Executive and Chair of the Unison Branch at the Trust. 

I happened to meet her this evening and found her perfectly reasonable.  I don’t agree with everything she says, but her ideas are certainly no more revolutionary than those expressed by many members of the Labour Party to ministers at events I have attended. 

To claim that the article below brought the Manchester Care Trust into disrepute is not a sustainable position and will be overturned as soon as this case gets before an impartial tribunal.  The Trust will be liable to pay unlimited and exemplary  damages in a case of Trades Union victimisation.

It appears to me that the new Chief Executive decided that she need to get a grip on the Trust, which is in deep trouble, and has been for some time, and took this article (which was actually published in January) as an opportunity to sack the most vocal Trades Unionist in the organisation.  I think that is an abuse of power, and it will also prove to be a waste of public money.

I don’t think we can stand by and let this happen.  Quite apart from any principle of Trades Union solidarity we cannot run the NHS on the basis that anyone who expresses dissent is for the chop. 

I already find that junior doctors are only prepared to talk to me about what goes on in their Trust under cover of anonymity.  One of the reasons that the great scandals such as the Bristol Royal Infirmary cardiac patients occurred was because of the suppression of dissent.  Doctors and nurses now, as a result, are professionally obliged to draw attention to the failings of their colleagues – including management
failings. 

The problems to which Karen was drawing attention are not imaginary or exaggerated but are recognised by the PCT.  If Gordon Brown’s stated ambition of “more power locally in the hands of patients and staff” is to be realised then NHS employers will have to accept that their staff must be allowed to debate the merits of what is proposed without the threat of dismissal.  Otherwise the problems (which are already widespread) of senior managers not knowing what is actually happening because everyone is afraid to tell the truth as they see it will become worse.

What do you think?

Martin Rathfelder
Director
Socialist Health Association
22 Blair Road
Manchester
M16 8NS
0870 013 0065
www.sochealth.co.uk

www.togetherworks.org.uk/?q=node/74
*While ministers are promoting social enterprise as a solution to problems in the NHS, campaigners against health service privatisation are sceptical. Karen Reissman is a leading member of anti-privatisation campaigns in Manchester. Sarah Irving heard her concerns about social enterprises in mental health provision…

Karen Reissman is an experienced community psychiatric nurse working in North Manchester, and although she welcomes some of the changes in the NHS over the last decade, she is deeply unhappy about others.
“I’ve had 5 employers in the last 13 years,” she says. “Each time the new headed notepaper and name badges costs thousands. Does it improve anything? No.”

She is concerned about the privatisation of NHS services, including by transfer to the voluntary sector and social enterprise, because of the effects she sees for both staff and patients.

She worries that voluntary sector and social enterprise organisations can win tenders through cutting costs, and this can mean lower standards of care and poorer conditions for workers on the mental health front line: “One of Manchester’s current assertive outreach teams is voluntary sector. One of the main things this has meant is that experienced NHS staff have been replaced with inexperienced staff,” she explains.

“This is partly because the voluntary sector organisation pays less, and because staff moving to it lose their NHS or local authority pensions.

“Experienced staff are likely to be older and therefore more concerned about their pensions, so they are very unlikely to want to move to new social enterprise sector organisations. This means that some of the most severely mentally ill people in the area are being cared for by people who themselves are newly qualified or in some cases trained in-house.”

Another concern is that the transfer of mental health services can also mean a shift in the culture and priorities of organisations. While Karen acknowledges that workers in social enterprise organisations are genuinely committed to their patients’ care, she questions whether the organisations themselves can really meet the demands of the sector: “One of the other areas being shifted to private sector organisations are community living projects, which run schemes such as arts projects and occupational activities,” she describes.

“A lot of these have been or are facing being turned into social enterprise organisations. My concern would be that this changes them from primarily being a treatment and therapy service to an entity which has to break even.

“Staff then spend their time looking for funding and subsidies, or trying to cut costs, rather than delivering the care they want to and which patients need. It downgrades the situation for both staff and
patients and moves the organisation from being mainly a service to being a commercial organisation which has to keep its eyes on the bottom line.

“There is one award-winning national project which uses art for people with mental health issues, some of whom have been very damaged by their illness, and helps them express themselves and get some fulfilment from life. Some of the artwork produced might be sold, but that happens in individual cases if it’s appropriate and it helps the patient. It faces becoming a social enterprise, and then selling work or being part of projects that bring in funding will become much more of a motivation.”

According to Karen, privatisation of the NHS in Manchester is proceeding quickly, fragmenting teams and cutting resources, including reducing the number of mental health beds in the region and making it harder for community nurses like her to spend adequate time with their patients.

“There are several bits of privatisation going on in the Manchester area at the moment,” she says. “Four of the Community Mental Health Teams are up for private tender at the moment, and it is likely that some of these will go to joint NHS/voluntary sector projects.”
Mental health workers in Manchester are currently balloting for strike action against privatisation and cuts in community mental health teams. “The chaos is frustrating, but it also motivates people to do something if we can get them organised,” argues Karen. “As bad as it is, it would have been worse if we hadn’t acted.
“Thatcher tried to tell people that private was good, public bad. She convinced some, but when they saw the privatised rail services they came to their senses.”

For more information on NHS Campaigns in Manchester see  www.stopthecuts.nr <http://www.stopthecuts.nr>

Below is the report from the PCT’s own website which Martin Rathfelder refers to above. He can’t see much difference with what Karen says in her interview. Can you?

Report from the Community sub group of the Visioning process (on 
www.bestforhealth.nhs.uk/page.asp?pagekey=236&branchkey=5
>> <http://www.bestforhealth.nhs.uk/page.asp?pagekey=236&branchkey=5>) 

 “The community group agrees this action (ie the expansion of assertive outreach) is required however concerns have been expressed about how this will be achieved. Manchester’s assertive outreach service is currently provided by the voluntary sector, through its service Ngage. Currently there are proposals for HARP to extend the service provided by Ngage but there have been a number of worrying concerns about governance and existing management arrangements and a number of worrying SUIs (serious and untoward incidents). Within the group there was a belief that without substantial partnership development the expansion of this service to cover up to 300 of the city’s most chaotic and worrying patients will be very difficult to achieve. A view has been expressed that without a partnership
arrangement the existing consultants would not be willing to act as community consultants for patients because of risk issues. The group therefore believes that a partnership arrangement with staff seconded
from the Trust and much closer management and governance input from the Trust would be a preferred option.”

This group included representatives from Manchester mental health and social care trust directors, medical staff, senior managers, clinical managers, Assertive outreach chief exec, commissioners etc. No minority report or objection was recorded. It seems they all agree with Karen’s views (they must all be ‘political extremists’ then, ed) - but Karen is the one who has been sacked.

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TRUST BOSS BACKS DOWN OVER THREAT TO REPORT STRIKING NURSES

The boss who sacked Karen Reissmann and then went on holiday has tried to intimidate the striking health workers.

But the bully-boy move backfired for Manchester Mental Health Trust chief executive Sheila Foley, who returned from Dubai only on Tuesday.
Sun-tanned Shelia, who is paid £135,000 a year, issued an hysterical statement to the press threatening to report the 150 striking nurses to their professional bodies for misconduct.

It was a clear attempt to try and frighten and intimidate the striking nurses back to work.
http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/s/1025464_nurses_row_escalates

Bully-boy Mrs Foley had already made the threat once before in a letter to Karen’s colleagues when they began their solidarity strike.

But while she was house-hunting in Dubai the strikers had contacted their professional bodies, including the Nursing and Midwifery Council, to find out if Mrs Foley could carry out her threat. The nurses were told very clearly that they had the right to strike and it was their management’s responsibility to organise cover.

A complaint could only be made against a striking nurse to the Council if the nurse had done something specific to affect a specific patient. A general complaint would be laughed out of court.

Yesterday – 24 hours after making a shrill second threat – bully boy Ms Foley was forced to backdown and withdraw her ultimatum at a meeting with regional officials from the nurses’ union UNISON.

She also agreed to bring Karen’s appeal forward a week to December 3.

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TRUST SAYS ‘NO’ TO PEACE FORMULA TO END STRIKE

STRIKING nurses are “bitterly disappointed” that Trust bosses have failed to resolve the dispute over sacked nurse Karen Reissmann.
They say the 150 strikers could have been back at work, if bosses had responded to their peace plan.
Meanwhile it has been agreed that full-time officials from UNISON will meet bosses from Manchester Community and Mental Health Trust tomorrow.
Local UNISON reps had met with Mrs Foley yesterday morning after the nurses confronted the chief executive as she returned to work following a week’s holiday in Dubai.
They demanded an immediate resolution of the damaging dispute, which has left vulnerable mentally ill patients without proper care, during a 30-minute meeting with Mrs Foley.
The nurses said they would return to work immediately if Karen was re-instated pending her appeal against dismissal.
But the Trust today replied with “no”.  Mrs Foley said she could not accept re-instating Karen since she had originally sacked her.
Ben Jackson said: “We could have been back in work this morning, if Mrs Foley had wanted us to go back. We put forward a serious proposal which would have ensured that Karen was immediately reinstated and our patients received the care they need. We are deeply disappointed that the Trust haven’t seen fit to respond constructively.”

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PEACE TALKS TO END ‘STRIKE FOR KAREN’ TO CONTINUE THIS MORNING…

TRUST bosses want to continue peace talks with mental health nurses who are staging an all-out strike for the re-instatement of Karen Reissmann.

Trust chief executive Shelia Foley emerged from her office today to ask for a further meeting with nurse reps this morning.

That meeting is now set to take place at 9 am at the Trust’s Headquarters at Chorlton House on Manchester Road.

But so far the Trust have not yet responded to a peace deal which the nurses proposed at the start of talks yesterday morning. It would mean that the strike would be temporarily suspended if Karen is re-instated by the Trust pending her appeal against dismissal.

UNISON officials are hoping the Trust will this morning give them a formal response to their peace proposal.

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