Visitors from Palestine come to Essex to discuss mental health issues

Published: 19 March 2010 at 16:27

Delegates from Palestine universities travel to UK to seek collaboration

Health professionals from the Islamic University of Gaza, An Najah University of Nableus and the Palestinian Ministry of Health visited Anglia Ruskin University and its partner mental health service providers (North Essex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and South Essex Partnership Trust).

The visit to Essex was organised between World Health Organisation (WHO) and Anglia Ruskin University with a view to enhancing mental health university education and services in Palestine. 

The mental health needs of Palestinians are complex. Dr Samir Qouta, Head of Psychology Department at the Islamic University of Gaza says:

"In Palestine there are many trauma victims with psychosis, depression and anxiety.  Many children are caught up by the war and the siege. They look up to their parents for support, but they themselves are helpless and traumatised."

"These children do not have proper role models; they are confused, traumatised, in a cycle which they cannot get out of. The war will affect many generations to come".

Dr Qouta, a clinical psychologist and expert researcher in children and young people affected by psychological trauma, is looking to Anglia Ruskin University for collaboration and supervision in research projects on trauma, and to gain from our expertise in running courses on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Improving Access to Psychological Therapies. 

Anglia Ruskin University has an excellent record in delivering such courses in the East of England according to Sue Kerr, Head of Mental Health & Learning Disability department.

The Faculty of Health & Social Care (FHSC) at Anglia Ruskin University and WHO are collaborating to support the Palestinian Ministry of Health and the Islamic University in the development of their mental health education and practice. Paul O’Halloran, WHO Regional Consultant for the Middle East, Allen Senivassen, Senior Lecturer, and Ruth Jackson (Deputy Dean) and Steve Wood  from FHSC have been working together for over a year to establish this collaboration which has resulted in the Palestinian delegation visiting Anglia Ruskin for education opportunities and its partner mental health service providers for delivery of sound practice. 

Professor David Humber, Anglia Ruskin University Pro-Vice Chancellor and Dean of FHSC, welcomed the delegates and WHO representative at a conference entitled ‘Transforming mental health education and practice’. He emphasised the leading role the FHSC is playing in research and education across East of England and globally and about the dynamic relationship with the partner Trusts. 

Dr Patrick Geoghegan, Chief executive of South Essex Partnership University NHS Trust (SEPT), met with the delegates and spoke passionately about mental health services being developed in South Essex.  The services include the redevelopment of Rochford Hospital which provides a modern, therapeutic environment where people with mental health needs can receive the care they need with dignity. He emphasises that SEPT and Anglia Ruskin has had a long-standing relationship and that both organisations are very aware of the challenges and the opportunities that lie ahead.

The delegates visited Mid Essex IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological therapies) team in Maldon where they were met by Krishna Singh, Clinical Director for IAPT, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust, and her team.  The senior doctors had the chance to look around the service facility, meet the projects’ partners including the local Richmond Fellowship team, and find out more about the important work undertaken by the team. 

The Mid Essex IAPT team won the local contract to provide IAPT services through the world class commissioning process.  Speaking on behalf of IAPT, Pieter du Toit, Manager of the Service, said:

"Meeting the visiting healthcare professionals from Palestine has clearly given us a much enhanced global insight into the provision of mental health services. We shared stories of education and practice which will bring reciprocal benefits to both countries."

The delegates also visited the acute services at the Linden centre, Broomfield Hospital, and the Early Intervention in Psychosis team at Baddow Road. At the Linden they were met by Paul Keedwell and Margaret Dowsett, Director and Associate Director of nursing, along with Peter Flack, clinical manager and his clinical team. They were impressed by the services offered at the centre for acute patients, and explored opportunities for exchange of professionals between the two countries in future.  After their visit to the Early intervention in Psychosis team, led by Rachel Lofthouse, Mary St Aubyn, Chairman of North Essex Partnership Foundation NHS Trust presented the delegates with engraved paper-weight gifts from the Trust.

Mary St Aubyn said:

‘I am pleased that our mental health services in north Essex are attracting attention from as far-a-field as Palestine. I hope that the visitors from Palestine can take with them good examples of mental health care which will benefit their local population. This visit is an excellent example of the importance of partnership working, knowledge sharing and our commitment to improving mental health services for everyone who needs them. I wish them well with their task of improving mental health services in Palestine.’

At The Haven in Colchester Heather Castillo, Chief Executive of the project, talked to the delegates about how this community service for people with complex mental health needs is having a positive impact on its users.

While visiting the mental health services, Dr Ayesh Samour, Consultant Psychiatrist, Head of Mental Health Directorate for the Ministry of Health in Gaza, explained the difficulties they experience at home:

"There are many psychiatric conditions to treat but many times we run out of drugs to treat them because the supplies to Palestine are cut off."

In terms of collaboration he said:

"I look for continuous connection for skills building of our staff in practical courses in the centres and hospital, the first priority which we need is in Psychological Well being Practitioners, acute care interventions, community integration in mental health services and delivery of nursing programme."

Allen Senivassen, Anglia Ruskin host organiser, commented:

"The Palestinian doctors have found meeting key people at Anglia Ruskin and the local mental health service providers very valuable, they are taking with them many ideas for capacity building of staff in the universities and in the clinical services in Palestine.  Through a coordinated programme with the World Health Organisation and our partners, ARU intends to play a key role in collaborating and supporting mental health development in Palestine. Participating in global  education and services is challenging but rewarding to all stakeholders."

He thanks all his colleagues at the University and in the Trusts for the warm welcome offered to the delegates, and Paul O’Halloran, WHO Representative, who masterminded the visit.

Reflecting on the visit Paul O’Halloran said:

"This study tour has been an extremely positive initiative and the WHO congratulates Anglia Ruskin University on the many efforts it has undertaken to make this mission a success. It has enabled the first steps to be taken in cementing together a collaborative relationship between the Islamic University of Gaza and the Anglia Ruskin University.  The WHO is pleased that the focus on building capacity and improving capability within the areas of community mental health nursing and psychological therapies, will not only lead to quality improvement in heath care education and clinical services provision, but in addition, hopefully lead to positive mental health gains in the populations of the occupied Palestinian territories".