Today was the day NHS funding cuts finally hit one of Sheffield Mental Health’s most cherished institutions – the SORT Team.
The Sheffield Assertive Outreach Team (or SORT) was originally founded to help offer support to some of Sheffield’s most hard to reach service users, particularly those with a long history of “revolving door” or repeated admissions to psychiatric wards. It has been remarkably successful, and many present at yesterday’s meeting bore testament to how involvement with SORT services has helped to keep them out of hospital for many years.
Feedback given by SORT service users at the meeting revealed that much of SORT’s success is down to the wide range of services it provides – from weekly day trips, to gardening projects, to music rehearsal and performance. A holistic care programme that enables service users to find meaning and enjoyment in their lives. One young man proclaimed passionately: “Lose SORT and we lose everything!”
Another comment came from a clearly upset young woman: “It’s all about cost, not about care!”
Indeed it is hard to see even the financial logic of the decision to cut back SORT services, as many present saw the inevitable outcome being a return to frequent hospital admissions, which is ultimately much more costly to the NHS.
But as the non-executive director from Sheffield Health and Social Care Trust was at pains to point out, the cuts have to come from somewhere, so why not SORT?
I do not think that the Trust presented themselves well at this meeting. There was a lack of outrage at the cuts, replaced by a dull acceptance, and a distinct lack of compassion for what it is actually going to mean to the lives of many vulnerable people on the front line of mental health services.
Welcome to the world of NHS spending cuts.