Dr Mubasshir Ajaz is Head of Health and Communities at West Midlands Combined Authority.
Which part of the region do you live in and/or work in?
Work in West Midlands Combined Authority (office location in Central Birmingham, but work across the CA region)
Which organisation/sector/network are you representing on the MH Commission?
Representing the West Midlands Combined Authority and the Mayor of West Midlands.
How does your role relate to the mental health agenda?
I am the Head of Health and Communities at the West Midland Combined Authority (WMCA). One of the areas of focus for my team is to lead on the Mental Health agenda for the CA. This includes the Commission, This is Me, Start Awards, Thrive at Work and Thrive into Work, which deal with various aspects of mental health and wellbeing. Our large Thrive programmes have wide reach into local businesses to think about employee mental health and wellbeing and into primary care to focus on employment as a means to improving outcomes for those with mental illness. In addition, we work closely with the local MH Health and Care system to ensure we are operating in a space that adds value to their work and bring additional resource into areas of need.
What are your particular areas of passion and interest, which you aim to champion through the work of the Commission?
My passion is inequalities and tackling head on the systemic nature of them which is rooted in our institutions.
What particular knowledge, skills & experience are you particularly seeking to ‘bring to the table’ to help to progress the work of the Commission?
As a young graduate, I worked at a clinic that helped new migrants complete the necessary health related paperwork to gain permanent settlement status in the United States, I could see then the obvious needs many of the applicants had, but the underlying mental health issues that no one seemed to take notice of then. During my doctorate, I worked on issues of access to genetic services and improving culturally competent services for visible minority groups in Bedfordshire. This is again where inequalities and mental health collided for me, as the trauma of dealing with rare disease or death of young children by parents was largely secondary to the genetic awareness angle. While working within Public Health Intelligence in Camden and Islington, I led the team to ensure the voice of the local residents was included in any and all decisions about locally commissioned services, including some key mental health services. One project in particular, Minding the Gap, was an evaluation of a programme setup to ensure better transfer for patients from Children MH Services to Adult MH Services. This project was very moving and rewarding and brought a renewed interest in mental health programmes and services. Working within the North Central London STP, I led the prevention workstream and introduced a Making Every Contact Count programme, a proven systematic approach to reducing health inequalities, across the 22 organisations of the partnership, and we ensured a focus on mental health awareness within the programme.
At the WMCA, we have recently published the Health of the Region report, highlighting some key inequalities in mental health. As also mentioned, I lead a team that focus on delivery of some key mental health programmes.
I hope to bring my experience and learnings from the various positions I’ve held and the personal growth on the subject matter that I’ve developed over the years to really add to the discussion at the Commission. I’m also here to learn from the other Commissioners and hoping to help shape the future of policies at the Combined Authority, especially as we aim for a devolution deal with government.