Local NHS staff have been sharing developments in older people’s mental health care with two well-known faces.
Rodney Bickerstaffe and Tony Booth visited mental health services on Friday 13th February. The visit, organised by South West Yorkshire Mental Health NHS Trust, gave Rodney and Tony the opportunity to meet staff who provide care for older people with mental health problems in Calderdale, Kirklees and Wakefield.
The Trust’s visitors met a variety of NHS staff who provide individualised care to local older people, including dementia services. Trust staff shared their involvement in a series of projects to improve and personalise care, including life history work which seeks to better understand an older person and their needs by piecing together their past. The Trust is also very proud of its partnership working with trade unions so was delighted to give Rodney and Tony the opportunity to also meet Trust union representatives.
Rodney Bickerstaffe is one of the most well known figures in the Labour movement. In 2001 he retired as general secretary of Britain’s biggest public sector union, Unison, and took on the role of president of the National Pensioners’ Convention, where he is still actively involved, with responsibility for international liaison. As a trade union leader Rodney passionately campaigned against low pay and has used that same energy and commitment to campaign for better benefits and improved healthcare for Britain’s 11 million pensioners.
Tony Booth is an actor, best known for his role as Mike Rawlins in the BBC series Till Death Us Do Part. One of his daughters, Cherie, is married to former Prime Minister Tony Blair. Tony Booth has always had strong trade union values and served as president of Equity, the actors’ union. He also become one of the most vocal advocates for pensioners’ rights; including helping launch a Daily Express campaign to boost the pension.
Joyce Catterick, Trust Chair, said "I am delighted that Rodney and Tony visited our Trust to learn more about mental health services for local older people as well as meet some of our highly valued trade union reps. Rodney and Tony are both passionate campaigners for rights, including those of older people so we were pleased to be able to show them how the Trust treats each individual in our care with the dignity and respect that they deserve."
Sue Barton, assistant director of older people’s services added, "Health services for older people have been highlighted recently with the launch of the first national dementia strategy. High profile visits, like the one we have had today, are a great morale booster for our staff as well as helping older people’s mental health services step out of the shadows, where they have been for too long."
Chris Crossland, secretary of the Trust Staff Side Committee, commented, "Members of our trade unions and staff organisations are committed to working in partnership with the Trust so we were delighted to share our work with Rodney and Tony. As population demographics change, services for older people are likely to face growing demand, and, in view of their NHS and trade union experience, we were also able to discuss the challenges we are likely to face in the future. Several of our representatives were also very pleased to renew their acquaintance with Rodney who is a pivotal figure in the trade union movement."
Speaking about their visit, Rodney Bickerstaffe said, "I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my visit and it has been particularly interesting to hear the views of staff and union representatives. It is clear there is a lot of good work going on here that needs shouting about so that others can learn from the Trust’s good practice."
Tony Booth said, "It’s great to see people so dedicated to providing such high standards of care for the growing population of older people. This visit has been an eye opener to the fact that there are real steps being taken to improve how we cater for the individual needs of older people and I’m really impressed with how far the Trust’s services have come."