North-West Right to Refuse Electroshock: A little history

Campaigning for the right to refuse ECT (Electro-Convulsive Therapy, or ‘Electroshock’) has a long history, including in the North West of England. In 1994, in Manchester, we created an organisation called ‘Psychology Politics Resistance’ (PPR), and produced six newsletters, the first of which is here. PPR brought together those who use mental health services, those who work as professionals in those services and academics who teach and research about alternative non-oppressive approaches to mental health. The gross abuse of power that ECT represents in mental health practice was taken up by PPR. In PPR Newsletter Number 4 we announced the formation of a ‘North West Campaign to Refuse Electroshock’. This is what we said in one of our first reports:

“The North West Right to Refuse Electroshock Campaign was formed following a packed public meeting organised by Psychology Politics Resistance in May 1997 at Manchester Town Hall. The founding meeting heard members of ECT Anonymous describe the effects of this ‘treatment’, and the lack of any credible rationale for it. 

Survivors of ECT (‘Electro-Convulsive Therapy’ or electroshock) spoke about the way they had been forced into it, and clinical psychologists and psychiatric nurses told of the pressure put upon them to get patients to agree if they seemed unwilling. Many radical psychologists and psychology service users want ECT banned, but the focus of this campaign is around the quite simple and reasonable human rights issue; that patients should have the right to refuse.

In September hospitals in the region were sent a simple list of questions about the way they used ECT (‘Electro-Convulsive Therapy’ or electroshock). Research has shown, for example, that older women are much more likely to be given ECT than other groups, and there is also disturbing evidence that people from different cultural minorities are also given ECT disproportionately more. The Pippard report commissioned by the Royal College of Psychiatrists revealed that certain hospitals were using ECT machines that were old in a bad state of repair (thus increasing the risk that patients suffer). There are also worrying reports that different hospitals in the North West region are more or less likely to give ECT, and that mental health workers (such as psychiatric nurses and clinical psychologists) are encouraged to pressure patients to have ECT against their will. So, the hospitals are being asked:

(1) How many patients per year receive ECT? (2) How many patients per year receive ECT whilst under a mental health section? (3) What proportion of ECT patients are women? What proportion are men? (4) What proportion of ECT patients are of ethnic minority? (5) What proportion of ECT patients are under 16 years, between 16 and 60 years, and over 60 years? (6) How often is/are your ECT machine/s serviced? (7) Do sectioned patients have a right to refuse ECT? Simple questions? The North West Right to Refuse Electroshock Campaign is determined to get the answers. People should have the right to decide, and to have their decision to say no to ECT respected. We are determined to uncover the different levels of ECT given by different hospitals, to different kinds of people, and to support people who decide that they do not want this treatment. So, the key continuing tasks of the campaign are to raise this issue, to pressure anyone involved in coercing patients, and to support the right to refuse. We refuse to accept secrecy and silence when basic human rights are at risk. The campaign will make public lists of hospitals and psychiatrists that administer ECT against patients will. Join us, and support the campaign.”

We organised another well-attended public meeting in November1997 at Friends Meeting House in Manchester with invited speakers from MIND and UNISON. This is what we said about that meeting in an update to members and supporters:

“The North West Right to Refuse Electroshock held a packed public meeting on 4th November to discuss results of a survey of hospitals. Jean Taylor from SHOCK, a group in Blackpool that has been campaigning for some years, spoke about her experiences of resisting ECT, and about ways she succeeded and ways she was beaten by the system. Penny Taylor from Having a Voice and North Manchester Users Group, spoke about experiences of people in her group. Representatives of the legal firm Alexander Harris then told the meeting of their success in obtaining legal aid (financial help for people taking cases to court) for a client who had been badly damaged by ECT and is now suing the local health authority, and of the new revelations of faulty machines being sold in Britain. Alex Adam James from the North West Right to Refuse Electroshock campaign discussed the results of our survey. 

From the survey it was clear that many more women were given ECT than men in the hospitals that replied, and there was a blatant attempt to conceal the lack of choice that women and men had about whether to have ECT or not. Our survey made the hospital administrators jump — we let them know that we were going to discuss their responses publicly and gave them a date to give us an answer — and now they know we are watching them, and more people are becoming more confident to join those who are watching, taking power back from the psychiatric apparatus that usually has it easy as far as observation and control are concerned. We know from the testimony of patients, clinical psychologists and psychiatric nurses working in local hospitals that threats of all kinds are made to make people comply. 

Later in the meeting the producer and presenter of the BBC programme ‘Here and Now’ spoke about their attempt to put the issue on the public agenda, and after the meeting people who had been subjected to forced ECT told them of their experiences. The next step is to take the Right to Refuse into the unions and Bury Trades Council (in the North East of Manchester) has already published an article about the campaign in their newsletter ‘Solidarity’. 140,000 shocks are administered to 20,000 patients a year in British Hospitals, and many of the nurses involved have no right to refuse assisting in this barbaric practice. An article in Psychiatric Bulletin revealed that 45 percent of junior doctors did not have accurate knowledge about what the current (themselves largely mythical, it should be said) criteria for assessing and delivering ‘shock’ were! Many more junior staff are revolted by the procedure. It is up to us now to make it clear that we will have nothing to do with it, and to fight for the right for all to say no and to be taken seriously.”

In 1999, we followed this up with a ‘Shock Machine Scandal’ headline on the front page of PPR number 6. (This was unfortunately the last issue of PPR as a newsletter/magazine, and PPR decided to carry on its work as part of Asylum Magazine). This was the article we published:


American women, Imogene Robovit from Iowa, recently managed to get a successful settlement from MECTA Corp., one of the major ECT machine manufacturers, after she sued the company for brain-damage and being rendered unfit to work because of shocks inflicted be a MECTA Model D machine in 1989. At the trial Robin Nichol, MECTA’S President, testified at the trial that MECTA have never performed a single safety check on their machines.

Linda Andre’s newsletter, SHOCKWAVES in the US, published further information about this and also about MECTA’S failure to produce safety studies to the FDA in the required timescale, which sparked of our own investigation in this country.

We discovered that Vickers – who are responsible for the distribution of MECTA products in the United Kingdom were unaware of the problems in America. Our partner in Scotland Alex Doherty wrote to Vickers on the 28 October 1997, bringing both articles to their attention. Vickers on receipt of his letter immediately contacted him by telephone assuring him that an immediate investigation was being undertaken. The spokesman for the company had already contacted the MECTA Corp., who denied that their Director gave any form of evidence at any trial, they also said that safety studies had been sent to the FDA in the required timescale. They promised Vickers that written evidence would be faxed that day. Three days later the evidence still hadn’t arrived, and to quote Vickers’ spokesman, 

“They seem to be stalling for some reason, which leaves us concerned. We have stopped sales of this equipment from the date your letter was received, we don’t need this hassle, we’re out of here. To be honest, to a company as big as Vickers this is only beer money with regard to corporate sales”. 

Our partner contacted the press, and Vickers confirmed that sales of MECTA machines had been suspended. 

Two days later an Investigative Television Reporter Howard Belgarde, BBC Midlands, contacted the Attorney who acted for the pursuer in the Iowa case. He confirmed that Robin Givens did give evidence in a pre- trial setting, and confirmed what was said in SHOCKWAVES article.

The Attorney stated ” The psychiatrist was cleared only because the pursuer was a nurse, and she should have known what she was letting herself in for. If she was in any other occupation she would have won. MECTA however settled out of court without prejudice, and substantial sum was paid”.

The safety certificates were sent to Vickers by fax three days later. We think these safety certificates were only lodged with the FDA after the matter was raised here in the UK. We would like to know the precise date the documents were lodged!

Going back to the subject of the sales of the machines by Vickers, despite their assurances that sales had been stopped from 29 October 1997, another Investigative Reporter, Colin Savage, working on a BBC programme called, Here and Now, rang the company and was offered a MECTA machine to buy. We believe Vickers were obviously embarrassed by the whole situation and deliberately covered up the fact that these machines were still being sold from under the counter. They were up for sale at this time and did not wish any adverse publicity.*

In view of the current level of interest in ECT and the fact that this company is in the death business, we think it a good idea to discover the company’s attitude to the safety of these machines and in particular whether they intend to withdraw the 70 or more ‘doubtful safety’ machines which Vickers have already sold to British hospitals.

In their 1996 ECT Audit, the Royal College of Psychiatrists visited 55 clinics in Wales, East Anglia and the North East Thames region, and sent postal questionnaires to the remaining 166 ECT clinics in England. Their Audit showed that 5.5% of clinics visited, and 14% of those clinics that answered the questionnaire (129 out of 166), used MECTA machines. The RCP also lists MECTA as one of the manufacturers whose machines meet their guidelines.

In the meantime people across the UK are being treated on unsafe and obsolete machines (just for the record, we believe all machines to be unsafe). On a recent TV programme about ECT which allowed filming of an actual ECT session, one of our colleagues noticed that the psychiatrist was using a MECTA SR2 machine (this machine is the same model with a different number as the one used in Iowa on Imogene Robovit)! The voltage read-out on the treatment parameters read 229.9 volts (mains voltage almost)! This particular machine is capable of delivering 1200mC of electric charge but IEC and TUV safety approvals don’t apply above 500mC (according to RCP handbook- the one they don’t read)! Imagine an untrained or unsupervised junior doctor twiddling with the nobs of this potentially lethal piece of equipment!

At a meeting set up by a Community Health Council in Salford in October last year I questioned the invited psychiatrist about the machines being used in his hospital. He said he didn’t know, but they would be getting a new one in six months time. When asked what happened when the machine they were using broke down he admitted, publicly, that they used an obsolete machine. When asked about the safety of continuing to give ECT to the patients over the next six months he just blushed and muttered under his breath. This disgraceful state of affairs continues as we write and thousands of people are being put at risk across the UK every day. The cavalier attitude of certain members of this profession continues to anger me greatly.

In view of the current level of interest in ECT and the fact that this company is in the death business, we think it a good idea to discover the company’s attitude to the safety of these machines and in particular whether they intend to withdraw the 70 or more ‘doubtful safety’ machines which Vickers have already sold to British hospitals and we intend to follow this up, we’ll keep you posted.

*Mecta machines are now distributed by Hillenbrand Industries (Indiana Tel.: 812 934 700 fax 812 934 1963 – President/chief exec: W Austen Hillenbrand) who also supply coffins and funeral insurance!

This article was written jointly by Pat Butterfield, co-founder of ECT Anonymous and Alex Doherty ‘Need for Change’ campaigner in Scotland. January 1998.”

What is really scandalous is that this carries on now, that ECT is given. 

What we learned in the course of the campaign was that there were people who chose to have ECT, but that the key issue is choice, a choice which most people are not given. That fundamental human right to choose treatment in full knowledge of the possible benefits or terrible side-effects is what is key.

That Right to Refuse Electroshock was a little campaign, and the work has been carried on by other groups, including in Asylum Magazine. Now it is time to pick things up again and get going on the issue in Manchester and the North West.

Grave concerns about the rapid, widespread rollout of the High Intensity Network’s ‘Serenity Integrated Mentoring’ (SIM) intervention across NHS England

SIM is a “coercive” approach using police officers as interventionists and is being rolled out across England.SIM is designed for people who have not committed a crime, but are in contact with mental health services, are frequently at high risk of suicide and self harm and are deemed “high intensity users” of emergency services.

StopSIM Coalition Consensus Statement relating to The High Intensity Network (HIN) and Serenity Integrating Mentoring (SIM)

“We are a coalition of mental health service users and allies who have grave concerns about the rapid, widespread rollout of the High Intensity Network’s ‘Serenity Integrated Mentoring’ (SIM) intervention across NHS England. The intervention is designed for people who have not committed a crime, but are in contact with mental health services, are frequently at high risk of suicide and self harm and are deemed “high intensity users” of emergency services.  Key intervention components include a co-ordinated withholding of potentially life saving treatment by multiple agencies (A&E, mental health, ambulance and police services) and, using SIM’s own words, the “coercive” approach of a police officer as an interventionist. 

We call on NHS England to:

  1. Halt the rollout and delivery of SIM with immediate effect, as well as interventions operating under a different name, which are associated with the High Intensity Network (HIN).
  2. Conduct an independent review and evaluation of SIM in regards to its evidence base, safety, legality, ethics, governance and acceptability to service users.
  3. Respond to this statement within 7 days to communicate the actions taken by NHS England. Communications should be directed to

Our concerns about SIM relate to its evidence, legality (including GDPR, Human Rights and Safeguarding), aims, governance and ethics. Interventions or service models operating using SIM principles may be known by alternative names, however, for brevity, this statement equally applies to those services, interventions and models.

This is a preliminary consensus statement. We have been researching SIM and the HIN for a number of weeks in preparation for the release of a detailed and referenced statement.  However, we are releasing this brief statement since becoming aware that, due to the hard and concerted effort of service users, survivors and allies over many weeks – and in some instances, years – that high level conversations have been prompted.  We felt it was critical to make our position public as soon as possible. A longer version of this statement, with citations, is shortly forthcoming.

We expect to be involved in any high level conversations concerning the High Intensity Network and SIM as a coalition of service users and allies.  We can be contacted by email at or via Twitter DM: @StopSIMMH. We will be publishing further updates on our Twitter account.  

In solidarity with survivors, service users and allies who have worked tirelessly to shine a light on injustice,

The #StopSim Coalition”

Copied to: Sir Simon Stevens, CEO – NHS England Lord David Prior, Chair – NHS EnglandClaire Murdoch, National Mental Health Director  NHS EnglandMartin Hewitt,Chair – National Police Chiefs’ CouncilSir Tom WinsorHer Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Service.

Global Families for Dialogic Approaches (GFDA) Family Survey A request for your assistance

A message from the Global Families for Dialogic Approaches (GFDA), a global group of individuals, family and social network members who have experiences with mental health supports and services. They are asking for your help, either by completing the survey below and/or sharing this survey link with others. They are getting ready to present a session on the perspectives of families at the HOPEnDialogue Research Conference next month, June 21-23 which will be online and free.

“We would appreciate any assistance you can give us in sending this survey out to as many individuals, family members and others who have experienced some type of mental health care. We are interested in learning what services help, what more is needed and if families would be interested in dialogic approaches.”

Open Dialogue is an approach pioneered in Finland that replaces top-down relations between practitioners and people affected by mental health challenges and their families with opportunities for all to be heard as equal experts. The Open Dialogue approach brings together clinicians/therapists/peer specialists and individuals with their families and members of their social network in ways that ensure that all of those present have a voice. Open questions replace one way treatment so that everyones’ voice helps to guide support, care and treatment.

All survey results will be anonymous. If people volunteer to add their emails at the end of the survey we will add you to our mailing GFDA list. 

The deadline for the survey is May 27th, 2021 in order to have time to summarize the results before the conference. 

Here is the link for the survey,

We are working on translating this survey to all languages needed around the world. Please contact us if you have a need or can help us translate to the languages used in your area.

If you have any questions please contact:

The link for the June 21-23 virtual HOPEnDialogue Conference is below. There is no charge for this virtual event. Please join us if you can by registering below: research-collaboration/
Thank you for assisting us in this important work!

Woman had fatal heart attack due to years of taking antipsychotics, inquest hears

An inquest jury has identified a series of failings in medical services following the death of a woman suffering with mental health issues for nearly 20 years.

The long-term side-effects of an antipsychotic drug given 58-year-old Elaine Mylchreest caused her to die of heart problems, the hearing at South Manchester Coroner’s Court in Stockport concluded.

Elaine, of Woodchurch Walk, Sale was found collapsed on a sofa in the Medlock Ward on the Moorside Unit at Trafford General Hospital on December 15 2019.

Attempts to revive her by the hospital’s crash team were unsuccessful.

The 11-member jury said that the medical cause of death was myocardial ischemia – which reduces the heart muscle’s ability to pump blood – and dilated cardiomyopathy, a condition in which the heart muscle becomes weakened and enlarged.

Both of these symptoms were ‘probably’ caused by Elaine’s long-term use of Clozapine which had been prescribed as a result of a treatment-resistant mental illness and had proved beneficial in alleviating distressing symptoms for many years.

The jury pointed to ‘broader failings’ in the overall treatment by medical services of Elaine, but which did not contribute directly to her death.

These included not carrying out an annual electrocardiagram (ECG) tests on Elaine which might have identified the heart problems sooner.

They also highlighted issues in identifying the potential link between physical health and on ongoing Clozapine treatment.

Coroner Christopher Morris said that Elaine died ‘as a consequence of a recognised complication of necessary medical treatment with Clozapine’.

See full article here

Source: Manchester Evening News, 13th May 2021

Mental health boss says it’s too much work to find out if legal consent has been given before administering controversial ECT Treatment

Dr Alice Seabourne, medical director at GMMH defends overuse of ECT in Greater Manchester saying it is in line with NICE guidelines.

See full M.E.N article here

Dr Alice Seabourne disputes the findings of the recent Freedom of Information audit of the use of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) that showed that GMMHT uses ECT at the fourth highest rate in the country,

Further, GMMHT did not answer all of the Freedom of Information questions it was asked especially about whether patients gave consent before the procedure. Her grounds for not providing the requested information was that it was not held centrally and finding it would ‘create an unreasonable amount of work’ especially considering the pressures of the pandemic.

In spite of the considerable medical doubts about the efficacy of the treatment Seabourne claims “Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is an effective, evidence-based treatment which is approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) in England and is delivered to patients within established legal frameworks.

Dr Seaborne said her staff take the use of ECT ‘extremely seriously’ following NICE and government guidelines, and that all GMMH ECT clinics are members of the Royal College of Psychiatrists external review system for the therapy.However GMMHT are using this last resort treatment at one of the highest rates in the country and at 43 times the rate of our neighbouring Trust, MerseyCare,

Rather than enter into open discussions about the overuse of ECT in Greater Manchester, Seabourne claims : “Information obtained via the Freedom of Information route should be approached with caution as the process was not designed to produce research, and any data sets are liable to be incomplete, particularly during the pandemic period – our internal analysis of the data we released as part of the FOI request is not consistent with that attributed to GMMH within the report.”

We would like to see this data and to have an open discussion about the future use of this outmoded treatment with the Trust.

Source: Manchester Evening News, 26th April 2021

Parents of man who killed himself after death of sister say he was ‘let down’ by GMMHT mental health services

Assistant Coroner Chris Murray recorded a conclusion of suicide of suicide following a three day inquest at Stockport Coroners’ Court, on Wednesday (May 5).

Mr Murray raised concerns about some aspects of Mr Thurm’s care and said he would be writing a ‘prevention of future deaths’ report.

During the inquest Mr Thurm’s parents, Alan and Sandra Thurm, criticised the treatment provided by mental health services.

“We felt let down by the NHS Greater Manchester Mental Health Trust,” they said

Stephen Thurm died four years after this sister Helena, 25, was killed by a dangerous driver in Altrincham.  Architecture graduate Stephen, 32, was found hanged a in February 2020.

An inquest heard how Stephen had struggled with mental health problems in adolescence and this was ‘heightened’ after his sister was killed.

After the tragedy, the former Altrincham Grammar School and Nottingham University student, became isolated, attempted suicide and was sectioned on a number of occasions.

Giving evidence in court on the third day of an inquest at Stockport Coroners Court Mr Daniel Barber, a registered social worker at Trafford Local Authority, said Steven was isolating himself in his room. 

He said his mood deteriorated when he was not busy and engaging in activities.

He said this was exacerbated by physical problems he had suffered including a hernia, injuries to the ligaments in his shoulder caused by a bike accident and a broken finger.

Mr Barber, who first met Stephen in March 2018, said he had expressed feeling “disconnected, lonely, envious and like he had no purpose.”

He said he had a very caring family who were very proactive with helping him with his health.

But Stephen had expressed he wanted to take more control and have more power over his treatment and complained of feeling ‘disempowered.’

Coroner Chris Murray said: “Stephen’s mood could change quite quickly.

“His parents were trapped in a cycle of despair. “

Mr Barber said Stephen told him he was having intrusive thoughts and was not wanting to wake up.

On June 27, 2019 the inquest heard Stephen had gone for a walk with Mr Barber and opened up to him about having suicidal thoughts two weeks previously.

Mr Barber had noted: “He opened up about feeling suicidal two weeks ago and said he was on the cusp of asking for hospital admission.

“Then his mood improved.”

Barrister, Mr Daniel Paul said the fact Stephen had said he was suicidal two weeks previously and claimed he had almost been asking for a hospital admission, despite always wanting to stay out of hospital, ‘set alarm bells ringing.’ 

He said to Mr Barber “It tells you a lot.” He posed a question as to whether risk assessment, showing Stephen to not be at high risk of suicide, should have been reviewed.

He pointed out that Stephen had been taken off the ‘Red Zone’ which meant he received up to three ‘contacts’ from the mental health team per week, ten days before the anniversary of Helena’s death.

Mr Paul said one of the problems Stephen also had was that while he expressed wanting to have psychotherapy – in order to have it, he had to demonstrate goals that he wanted to achieve and that he was motivated.

But to demonstrate he has this – he had to have psychology. 

He said: “It’s a catch 22 situation and he was a bit stuck.”

Mr Barber said it was a worrying time for Stephen’s parents as he was going on a vandalism spree, smashing and ripping up photographs.

He said they could not keep up with his behaviour but did not want him to leave the family home for fear he would take his own life.

Answering questions, Mr Barber told Greater Manchester Mental Health representative, Sara Lyle, that Stephen was angry about being monitored by his parents and hence this was why he ripped up the family pictures.

Mr Barber told the court “We were all doing everything we could.

“There was a consistent attempt to do the right thing by Stephen.

Coroner Mr Murray posed questions to registered mental health nurse Candice French, service manager for the mental health trust, Trafford, as to whether care co-ordinators like Mr Barber were being given adequate time to write notes up contemporaneously if they were “bouncing from appointment to appointment.”

He asked if it was incumbent the care coordinator made it known if they were struggling to get things done in time. She said : “Yes, it is.”

Stephen was last seen by a psychiatrist in August 2019 and by a psychologist on a one-to-one basis in July 2018.

The family made a statement as follows:

“We support the conclusions of the South Manchester Coroner, who today outlined inconsistencies and failings in the care provided by the Trust, and by the Trust’s own internal enquiry, as to what went wrong which he described as ‘unsatisfactory’.

“We were saddened and disappointed that we had to engage a solicitor and barrister to forensically examine patient records to uncover the truth.

“The Trust’s internal enquiry was like an exercise in students marking their own homework, in that it failed to identify abundantly clear failings in its service delivery, its record keeping, and its employees.”

Mr and Mrs Thurm say they ‘repeatedly warned’ the Trust about their son’s deterioration and the urgent need for effective treatment but claim “our views were often ignored”.

They added: “We were recently bereaved parents, ourselves suffering from severe post-traumatic stress disorder owing to the violent death of our daughter, yet the Trust offered us little support and often side-lined us from decisions about our son’s care.”

They added: “The Coroner concluded today there is a wider issue to address in terms of the use of information gathered from the family and how that is reflected in the care plan. So, he will address the wider care arrangement in respect of mental health patients in a prevention of future death report.

“The Coroner’s conclusions are very welcome, and the full story has now been revealed.

“Nothing will bring back our beloved son, Stephen, but we hope that changes resulting from the Coroner’s findings might help future patients.”

Following a three day inquest at Stockport coroners’ court, Mr Murray recorded a conclusion of suicide.

He said: “Stephen had demonstrated over a long period of time a propensity to carry out self-harm. I am satisfied he had the intention to take his own life.”

Mr Murray raised concerns about some aspects of Mr Thurm’s care and said he would be writing a ‘prevention of future deaths’ report.

The concerns included ‘inconsistencies’ in moving Mr Thurm in and out of the ‘red zone’ – a term used to describe increasing a patient’s contact with the care team in response to a deterioration in their mental health, a lack of time for care coordinators to complete notes, a lack of support Mr Thurm’s parents and concerns about how information provided by the family was used in care plans.

Mr Murray said: “There does not appear to be support for families in cases such as this.”

Gill Green, director of nursing and governance at Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (GMMH) said: “We offer our deepest condolences to Stephen’s family, friends and all those who cared for him at this sad time.

“Our Trust is committed to continuous learning and improvement. Since the incident, we carried out an extensive internal review, which led to recommendations and a comprehensive action plan to help prevent similar incidents in the future.

“The action plan focused on training and supporting staff to follow all Trust policies and procedures around referrals to other services, and documentation. All actions have now been completed.

“We fully accept the findings of the Coroner, and will work rapidly to prioritise all further actions in their report. We recognise that we need to work more closely with the family and friends of our patients. We have a dedicated Service User and Carer Lead for Trafford, who works closely with our Trust-wide Carer Lead to improve staff communication with carers. They recently completed a rigorous audit of carer engagement in Trafford and a detailed action plan has been developed to ensure that all staff in Trafford recognise the important role family and friends play and incorporate their concerns into care planning wherever possible.

“We recognise this comes too late for Stephen, and our thoughts remain with everyone who was affected by this tragedy.”

Full story here

Source: Manchester Evening News, 6th May 2021

The Crisis in Manchester’s Mental Health Services: How do we do it better?

18.30 12th May 2021 Zoom Meeting

A Conversation and Discussion

Mental Health Services in Manchester are being overwhelmed by the level of need.

Can’t get the support you need? It’s time for us to get together and say what’s needed.

As the crisis in community care has increased so have hospital admissions. This is a consequence of a lack of resources combined with resistance to thinking beyond the outmoded medical model of care based around the psychiatric hospital.

The discussion is always about the lack of “beds”. We say we don’t need more beds, we need better community support and care for people in crisis.


Dr Gail Coleman Oluwabusola (Chair)

Paul Baker, CHARM

Anandi Ramamurthy, CHARM

Claire Miller, Unison Representative

Amy Wells, National Survivor User Network

Mary Patel, Family member

Jeff Evans, Mental Health Campaigner

Simon Smith, family member

Come and listen to our speakers and take part in a discussion to identify ways forward.

Let us know you will be attending here

Manchester Crisis in Mental Health Zoom Meeting or join us directly on the night
here (Meeting ID: 876 2857 9841)

There will be plenty of time for questions and points of view. 

We will also be launching our  CHARM Demands (click on link) that you can find on our new website.

This event has been organised by CHARM (Communities For Holistic, Accessible, Rights based Mental Health).  We’ve teamed up with people with lived experience, trade unions, family groups and citizens calling for changes in the way psychiatric services are provided in Manchester. 

See more about us here.

We hope the meeting will be a great opportunity to develop our ideas and approaches.

See you there!

Mental health crisis: How a new approach to care could help the NHS

“In Home Group, working in a psychologically informed way is one of the fundamental principles of our LIFE support practice model. It is central to how we support our customers in that we seek to understand what has happened in their lives up to that point in order to develop how we support them most effectively.

“Mental health services have historically been based on a medical model where diagnosis is the focal point. Working psychologically helps avoid the stigmatisation and labelling that can arise from a diagnosis driven approach and looks at what has happened rather than what is wrong with individuals.

“Our customers have often experienced trauma and many other difficulties in their lives. Having support teams that understand the impact of trauma, are empathic and supportive of customers regarding such experiences, helps prevents re-traumatisation and leads to much better outcomes for all.”

Interesting article from the National Health Executive website from November 2020 about Home Group who run Beech Range, a mental health step down service providing homes and care for up to eight people over a 12-week period, and is being piloted by Greater Manchester Mental Health Trust (GMMH) to help reduce the need for out of area placements (OAPs).

Beech Range is a Mental Health Step Downservice delivered by Home Group in partnership with Greater Manchester Mental Health Foundation Trust (GMMH). The service was introduced in July 2018 to provide a community based short stay of up to 12-weeks. giving an alternative and less restrictive environment for customers who are medically optimised but not yet able to go home.

The service description says it is a “CQC registered service forms a critical part of the acute care pathway whilst increasing capacity and flow within Manchester’s acute wards and reducing the need for an out of area placement.”

The article claims that as well as improving bed flow and patient outcomes, figures produced by GMMH show that Beech Range has the potential to achieve an annual saving of £1.27m for the NHS in Greater Manchester, compared to the independent sector’s average nightly bed rates, and £738,000 compared to GMMH’s own nightly average.

They say with this pioneering service is proving its value to both commissioners and customers, Home Group are now expanding the model further, both in Greater Manchester and across England, in order to support bed flow in the NHS and reduce the reliance on out of area placements.

See article from the National Health Executive Website here

Any feedback about Beech Range you’d like to share?

The tragic mistakes that sealed the fate of Zak Bennett-Eko

Zak Bennett-Eko killed his son and was found guilty of manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility.

The presiding judge at the Lowry Nightingale Court had one important question of his own – exactly how did it come to this?

There were some answers revealed in court, as three psychiatrists took to the witness box to try and make sense of the incomprehensible.

They told a story of a severely mentally ill man – aware of his spiralling condition – ‘slipping through the net’ and being ‘failed by the system’ at every turn, to use the judge’s own words.

Zak Bennett-Eko was first diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia at the age of 12, jurors were told.

By the time he was 15, in 2014, his mental health concerns had become so serious he was sectioned.

The teenager would be confined to a secure adolescent psychiatry unit, the Gardener Unit, for 17 months.

When he left the unit, Bennett-Eko was prescribed with a year-long ‘care in the community plan’, where he would be seen by specialist mental heath care practitioners who were aware of his complicated history, and just how serious his condition was.

But, once that plan was completed, he had no contact from community mental health care teams at all.

Just why there was no follow up from mental health care teams, there remains no clear answer. 

From the moment his care plan lapsed in February 2017, Bennett-Eko was discharged from community mental health care and left in the care of his GP – for no apparent reason, one psychiatrist told the court.

Though he had regular appointments with the doctor, Bennett-Eko was a young man with a learning disability without the words to articulate the nature of his illness.

He had also started using cannabis, which had ‘eased some of the symptoms of his condition’, but ultimately ‘probably made things worse’ – again, without understanding what this drug use would mean for his mind.

He would be faced with a GP, without the specific training to successfully deal with a case as bad as his, said one psychiatrist who now cares for the young man. 

The discharge was slammed by both the judge and those who now treat Bennett-Eko as one of the most disturbed patients at Ashworth high security hospital for mentally ill criminals.

Bennett-Eko is likely to remain there for life.

Dr John Crosby, the 23-year-old’s treating clinician, told the judge as he considered Bennett-Eko’s sentence: “Bennett-Eko was discharged from community mental health services.

“It is very rare someone is admitted to an adolescent secure unit – someone who has that sort of history should never have been discharged.

“Looking back at his notes, I have never really found a reason for that decision. It is a big ask for someone with such complex issues to go to a GP and explain what is going on.

“I don’t think a GP would have an understanding of mental illness to manage something like that in the community.”

“Dr Crosby, your treating clinician at Ashworth, describes that transfer from the community mental health team as a mistake. It clearly was,” added Judge Fraser, gravely.

The judge addressed Bennett-Eko, though he was not present in court, as he sentenced him to a hospital order which would confine him to a secure prison hospital.

“The regular trips you made to A&E show that you made genuine and sustained attempts to seek professional help,” said Judge Fraser.

“You were trying, as best you could in this respect, and you expressly asked to be sectioned.

“Your difficulties in communicating would have made it a lot more difficult for doctors in a busy A&E department to recognise your mental state, and sadly, on each occasion you presented at the hospital the help you needed was not available.

“You have serious medical conditions requiring urgent, intensive and long-term treatment.

“However, it is not the only failure of the system in your case. You seem to have slipped through the net in terms of care for your mental illness, which with hindsight was far more serious than was realised at the time.”

Bennett-Eko was on a number of medications throughout his life, but in the months leading up to the psychotic episode that led to the death of his child, he had stopped picking up his prescriptions and stopped whatever drugs he had left.

For paranoid schizophrenics like Bennett-Eko, stopping taking medication can be fairly common, according to Dr Melanie Higgins, another psychiatrist now treating him.

Patients who do not have much insight into their condition can believe that they no longer need the medication – that they are cured because they stop experiencing symptoms.

Some believe that it is the medication itself that is making them mentally ill.

But although the young dad came off his medication, it was clear he had enough insight to seek help when he felt his condition relapsing in the weeks before the killing.

Altogether, Zak Bennett-Eko went to A&E six times in 2019, begging for help with his deteriorating mental health.

On one occasion, he specifically asked medics to section him, as he had been threatening to kill himself in the presence of his partner, the mother of baby Zakari.

This request was never fulfilled.

See full story here

Source: Manchester Evening News, 22nd December 2020