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A Successful Mental Health Taskforce Will Benefit Everyone in This Country Now and For Generations to Come

17/05/2016 17:22 | Updated 17 May 2016

February saw the publication of the Five Year Forward Review for Mental Health from the Mental Health Task Force. Launched to great acclaim it very clearly sets out what needs to happen if we are to bring mental health in line with physical health provision in the NHS in England.

Combined with the £1billion of extra funding subsequently announced by the Government, the report gives real hope that mental health care will finally become a 21st Century service. It is very clear on how its recommendations should be implemented, and who has to do what in order to make them a reality. And it is not all about finding the funding. It is also about systemic disruption and cultural change on a massive scale.

There needs to be far better commissioning at a local level with more transparency as to what is being spent where by clinical commissioning groups. We need to have national standards with efficient data collection in place to make sure that there is no more inconsistency of service across different parts of the country. And perhaps most contentiously of all, we need a new single payment system to be rolled out across the NHS that does not prioritise acute hospitals.

Just one of these objectives requires a completely new way of thinking - all three of them represent a healthcare revolution the likes of which have not been seen since the NHS was set up.

Change takes time, costs money, challenges institutions, disrupts habitual practice, and makes people uncomfortable, angry and often fearful for what change will bring. So the Local Government bodies, the NHS and the local Clinical Commissioning Groups that make up the current system must take up the mantle and make change happen. They need to challenge the status quo, cause disruption to current practice and allay people's fears for progress to be made.

Alongside all of this National Government must also continue to play its part. It must make sure that the £1billion of funding over the next five years of implementation is sustained and delivered. It must also commit to provide passionate advocacy and leadership to both hold national and local bodies to account and promote cross-department collaboration.

If we do not tackle these changes head on, however hard it is, we will miss a once-in-a-generation opportunity to bring mental health care in line with physical care. We simply cannot let this happen as the statistics show. One in four adults and one in ten children currently suffer with mental-health problems. Half of all reported mental health problems have been established by the age of 14, rising to 75% by the age of 24. One in five mothers suffer from depression in pregnancy or the first year of their child's life. People with severe mental health problems die on average 15-20 years earlier than the general population.

Only half of those serving in the armed forces seek help for mental health conditions. Instances of common mental health problems are twice as high amongst the homeless population. As many as nine out of ten prisoners suffer from mental health problems or addiction. Suicide is rising and is now the leading cause of death for men aged 15-49. And one in five older people in the community and 40% of older people living in care homes suffer from depression.

The estimated economic cost of mental ill-health is £105billion in England annually, which is equal to the entire NHS budget in England, and accounts for 23% of the disease burden in the NHS. Despite all of this, only 9% of the overall NHS budget is spent on mental health services.
Change, then, is clearly called for.

Through my work as Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Mental Health I have met many very committed, high quality professionals across the NHS, local and national Government, and the Clinical Commissioning Groups all of whom work tirelessly to improve the lives of those suffering with metal health. I genuinely believe that if we all accept the challenge and collectively find the drive, the energy and the bravery to see this report through, we can achieve great things that will benefit everyone in this country now and for generations to come.

James Morris is the Conservative MP for Halesowen and Rowley Regis, and Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Mental Health

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