THE BLOG

Mental Health Must Remain a Government Priority at This Critical Time

21/07/2016 15:16 | Updated 21 July 2016
Chris J Ratcliffe via Getty Images

It is a measure of the frenetic political conditions in which we are living that the draft of this article became hopelessly out of date in the few days it has been sitting on my desk.
With Theresa May now installed as Prime Minister we have, following a few dizzying weeks in which no one has really been quite sure what will happen over the course of a morning, the possibility of some semblance of business as usual returning to Government. Yes, it will be a PB (Post-Brexit) sort of politics, in which the only thing that feels certain in the immediate future is a whole load of uncertainty, but at least the wheels should begin to turn.

Although the current climate makes looking back at something that happened over a month ago appear as if one has an unhealthy interest in ancient history, the question of what will happen to the NHS and where the money goes remains highly relevant, and nowhere more so than in mental health.

No doubt people affected by mental illness voted on both sides for a variety of different motivations. In the aftermath, however, our supporters have expressed deep anxiety about what will happen to mental health services, which for so long have been the subject of confusion and often the first to suffer in times of economic pressure. Ironically, one of the reasons for this is the inherent difficulty that exists in proving what funding is actually going into mental health services in the first place.

In February this year, the Independent Mental Health Taskforce produced the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health with the goal of achieving parity between physical and mental health provision. It was commissioned by NHS England and its chief executive, Simon Stevens, who put the question of the integration of mental and physical health at the centre of his own drive to improve outcomes across the sector, recognising that mental health conditions account for the largest single cost across the NHS.

The Five Year Forward View for Mental Health made a series of recommendations in terms of quality, prevention and access and is clear about what each organisation in an increasingly complex health landscape should be doing and by when. It concluded that it was reasonable for people with mental illness to expect to receive a high quality consistent service close to home, and it was accepted and endorsed by the Government in its entirety.

This week the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health implementation plan was published, which provided some further and welcome clarification and direction in these very uncertain times, and I know that will be a comfort to many of our supporters. The plan digs down into many of the recommendations, outlining detailed funding allocations and timescales up until 2021. We will be keeping a close eye on tracking this funding and progress over the next five years. We will be looking particularly closely at how those with experience of mental illness will be involved in designing and delivering these programmes going forward, including through co-production of mental health services at a local level.

It's good to see the focus on secure care services and how the physical health of those with mental illness will be improved, as these are all key issues for our supporters. The plan also outlines increased access to talking therapies to those who experience psychosis and personality disorders, and although funding and timelines are yet to be worked out for this particular area, seeing tried and tested interventions like this being taken forward is very welcome indeed.

The recommendations and the subsequent implementation plan have left very little wiggle room for those responsible for delivering, and we and others across the sector will have no hesitation in holding the different players to account, including the case for investment that sits at the heart of the report.

So I'd like to take this opportunity to reassure our supporters and campaigners, and indeed everyone affected by mental illness, that we will do everything we can to ensure mental health remains a priority for the Government, regardless of how dominant the question of our future relationship with Europe, to coin the phrase, remains.

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