Despite my impression that neither mental health nor children and young people’s issues were well-represented, the HSRN conference gave me considerable food for thought. I attended three fascinating talks about the power of the media to influence both public opinion and policy. We’re all aware of the power of the media to misrepresent, skew and generally scandalise, but these were really powerful illustrations of the dangers of a system in which politicians seem to be influenced more by the media than by the evidence.
Intuitively, service integration seems like a positive shift but, according to our own Professor Martin Roland, there is little evidence that it actually works. Integration can occur on a number of levels: cultural, structural, financial, population or at workforce level. We need to be clearer about what it is we’re trying to integrate, why and what we’re aiming to achieve.
The gulf between the research ideal (gold standard, highly theoretical academic research that usually takes years) and the research reality (achievable sample sizes, practical methods and field work, clear, achievable and useful aims in a practical time-scale) was a common theme. This was pertinent for me as one of our service provider partners had just made exactly the same point, that providers are shocked by how long research takes, how much it costs, by fancy statistics that aren’t interpretable: they want to know if something works, they want to know soon. How can we bridge the gap but maintain high research standards?
Finally I was disappointed by the absence of service-users as delegates or contributors, particularly as one of the take-home messages from the conference was the enormous value of good PPI. The conference billed itself as an opportunity for all stakeholders (including service users) to learn, share and network but service users were conspicuous by their absence. The excellent Involve display was prominent which was great but overall I think these major events need to pay more than lip service to involvement and really make it happen.
Thank you HSRN for a thought-provoking and useful two days.