NSUN statement on NHSE’s failure to publish joint policy with StopSIM coalition

The StopSIM coalition has been working with NHS England for 15 months on a joint policy around the Serenity Integrated Mentoring (SIM) model, and similar “high-intensity service use” models, setting out practices that must be eliminated in mental health care (and how this should be monitored) alongside an acknowledgment of and apology for the harm caused by the acceleration and endorsement of the SIM scheme. For more information on SIM, you can read the original coalition consensus statement here.

On Friday 10th March 2023, NHSE published a short letter to trusts instead of the full co-produced policy. We stand in solidarity with the coalition, who are now having to pause all activity for a minimum of a month due to the distress caused by NHSE’s decision not to publish the policy after months of intensive, unpaid labour, and fully support their call for NHSE to publish the joint policy in full immediately in the statement they released on Monday 13th March.

As the coalition say in their statement:

“We share in the anger, disappointment and fear that service users will feel following this announcement. NHS England’s failure to publish this policy is a significant betrayal of the seen and unseen labour put into the development of this work and the campaign against SIM more broadly…

We had hoped this work would signify changes in ways of working within NHS England and indicate the possibilities of future improvements in the involvement of lived experience groups within the institution. However, failure to publish the final policy sets a precedent for undervaluing lived experience contributions and failing to follow through on commitments, as well as demonstrating total disregard for the labour of lived experience involvement.”

Publishing this collaborative policy would have been a tangible step towards eradicating punitive practices and the criminalisation of distress in mental health care, as well as a demonstration that NHSE is willing to work in partnership with survivors and service users, and we are deeply disappointed by NHSE’s last-minute decision to backtrack on its publication. This betrayal further embeds distrust in “co-production” work within the mental health system which comes from decades of the co-option and erasure of survivor and service-user led work.

NSUN calls on NHS England to publish the full co-authored policy immediately. We agree with the coalition that “unless the full policy is published and the public are able to scrutinise how trusts respond, we do not believe that all trusts will make the necessary changes outlined above… Crucially, failure to publish leaves services users without access to a policy that could help protect them from SIM and SIM-like approaches, and without acknowledgement of the harm that’s been caused to them.”

StopSIM have asked that in their absence, allies such as health, medical, and academic professionals sign an open letter to NHSE asking for the publication of the joint policy – you can read the letter and add your signature here.