I agree that tackling poor mental health in the UK must be a priority and Ministers have legislated to ensure it is treated with the same importance as physical health via the Health and Social Care Act 2012. NHS England has now commissioned the independent Mental Health Taskforce to create a mental health five year plan.
The independent Mental Health Taskforce published its report in February 2016. The Government welcomed the report and accepted all 58 recommendations.
In January 2017, the Prime Minister unveiled further plans to transform mental health support. These include:
- New support for schools with every secondary school in the country to be offered mental health first aid training and new trials to look at how to strengthen the links between schools and local NHS mental health staff.
- A new partnership with employers to improve mental health support in the workplace. The Prime Minister has appointed Lord Dennis Stevenson and Paul Farmer CBE to drive work with business and the public sector to support mental health in the workplace.
- Further alternatives to hospital to support people in the community. The Government will build on its £15 million investment to provide and promote new models of community based care such as crisis cafes and community clinics.
- Plans to rapidly expand treatment by investing in and expanding digital mental health services. The Government will speed up the delivery of a £67.7 million digital mental health package so that those worried about stress, anxiety or more serious issues can go online, check their symptoms and if needed, access digital therapy immediately rather than waiting weeks for a face-to-face appointment.
- New ways to right the injustices people with mental health problems face. The Department for Health will undertake a formal review of mental health debt, working with Money and Mental Health. The Government will also support NHS England’s commitment to eliminate inappropriate placements to inpatient beds for children and young people by 2021.
Children and Young People
The Government is committed to the vision in the report, Future in Mind to transform the future of mental health services for children and young people. Future in Mind describes an integrated whole system approach to driving improvements in children and young people’s mental health. This includes the NHS, public health, voluntary and community, local authority children’s services, education and youth justice sectors working together.
An access and waiting time standard has been introduced for children and young people with an eating disorder. Treatment should commence within a maximum of four weeks from first contact with a designated healthcare professional for routine cases and within one week for urgent cases. The Government’s aim is for 95 per cent of these patients to be treated within this standard by 2020.
Perinatal Mental Health
The Government is investing an additional £365 million by 2021 to improve services so that women are able to access the right care, at the right time and close to home. Trained specialist mental health staff will be available to support mothers in every birthing unit by 2017 and the NHS has hired over 1,800 more midwives since 2010 to ensure safer deliveries.
Work is also being carried out to support perinatal mental health training being incorporated into the postgraduate training syllabus for doctors by 2017. In addition to this over 600 perinatal mental health visitor champions have been trained and are supporting health visitors with the identification of perinatal mental disorders.
In 2012, the Department of Health launched a cross-Government strategy, Preventing Suicide in England which recognises the need to prioritise young men as a high risk group. The Government provides financial support to the National Suicide Prevention Alliance and also works with a range of experts and partner organisations to deliver suicide prevention activities across all age groups, including young men. The Government has accepted the recommendations of the independent Mental Health Taskforce’s Five Year Forward View for Mental Health to reduce the national suicide rate by 10 per cent by 2020/21, local areas to implement multi-agency suicide prevention action plans by 2017 and to take steps so that lessons are learned from all suicides in NHS-funded mental health settings to prevent future deaths. I am hopeful that this will reduce suicides.
Prisoners’ Mental Health
NHS England is improving prison mental health services through nationally developed service specifications, which are being rolled out across the prison estate in England. The Government’s Mandate with NHS England commits them to develop better healthcare services for people in the criminal justice system.
All prisons are required to have procedures in place to identify, manage and support people who are at risk of harm to themselves. These include the Assessment, Care in Custody and Teamwork (ACCT) process, which is a prisoner-centred, flexible care planning system for prisoners identified as at risk of suicide or self-harm. In 2016, an additional £10m of new funding was allocated to the 69 prisons with the most concerning levels of violence and self-harm.
Veterans' Mental Health
Following the enshrinement in law of the Armed Forces Covenant, veterans in England, Scotland and Wales are entitled to priority access to secondary healthcare for conditions suspected to be due to their service in the Armed Forces, subject to the clinical needs of others. In the March 2015 Budget, the Chancellor announced that the Government would provide £8.4m over the next five years to expand mental health services for veterans in England. This followed investment of over £7m during the preceding five years. Over £13m from bank fines has been awarded to support mental health programmes in the Armed Forces community too, as well as some excellent projects in our local area.
I hope that this information reassures you that the Government is working hard to improve care pathways for mental health patients.