Over the last nine months, I've been chairing the Mental Health Taskforce for the NHS, which has culminated in a report, published today. It's been an extraordinary journey- resulting in 58 recommendations for the NHS and wider government - all of which have been accepted.
We started by asking people with their own experiences of mental health problems and professionals what they wanted to see. Over 20,000 people responded, one of the largest consultations for any piece of health policy. We also travelled the country and met people of all ages and backgrounds. I particularly remember one discussion I had with a woman in Leeds, who told me: 'If I'd got the help in my teens that I finally got in my 30s, I wouldn't have lost my 20s.'
For too long, people with mental health problems have had to put up with patchy services. NHS mental health services have been underfunded for decades and now, as demand for services rises, the signs of strain are obvious. Unsurprisingly, then, the three big priorities that came out of the consultation were: access to the right care, at the right time, in the right place; better integration of mental health and physical health services so that people are treated as a whole person regardless of where in the NHS they are being treated; and prevention, so that we help to stop people developing mental health problems in the first place.
People also told us that a decent place to live, a job and good quality relationships in their local communities were crucial to their ability to stay well. And we heard how too many people from Black and Minority Ethnic communities have problems accessing good quality mental health care and have lost faith in services as a result.
The taskforce included our vice-chair Jacqui Dyer, charities like the NSUN (National Survivor User Network) and Rethink Mental Illness, mental health professionals and NHS staff. We took these themes and our final report reflects these priorities.
As you'll see in the news today, our headline is that by 2020, an additional 1million people will get help. In addition to accepting all the recommendations, the NHS has committed to an extra £1billion a year being spent in 2020/21 on mental health to make that happen.
It's a landmark moment. The public has changed its mind about mental health - we talk about it like never before, in part thanks to an increasing number of high profile people and ordinary members of the public who are willing to speak out and challenge stigma. It's now time for public services like the NHS and others to change their minds about mental health and make it a priority - and it seems that they are committed to doing just that.
By 2020, people facing a crisis should have access to mental health care 24 hours a day, seven days a week. People's mental and physical health should be treated equally - including people with severe mental health problems, pregnant women and new mums, and children and young people.
And beyond the NHS, all areas of society, including schools, workplaces and community organisations need to contribute to the promotion of good mental health and prevention of mental health problems - in all areas of people's lives. For this reason our report includes recommendations for government departments other than the Department of Health, including the Department for Education and the Department for Work and Pensions.
The recommendations of the report are clear - mental health care needs to be transformed. Now it's down to Government, the NHS and other organisations to get the job done. And it's our job to continue to make sure our voices are heard and help create a fresh mind-set and a better future for mental health.