Leading mental health charities and social enterprises have today branded the newly announced Major Conditions Strategy a betrayal of the government’s promise to develop a visionary new plan for mental health, from cradle to grave, from prevention to treatment.
The charities, including the Mental Health Foundation, Rethink Mental Illness, and Samaritans, are concerned that grouping mental ill-health with chronic health conditions, such as cancer and respiratory diseases, will fail to bring about the long-term government thinking needed both to tackle the root causes of mental health problems, or provide people with the care they need.
“The Government has been publicly saying for almost a year that it would develop a 10-year plan for the prevention and treatment of mental health problems in England. This is exactly what was needed, avoiding quick fixes and looking at every part of wider society’s role in preventing and responding to mental health problems, beyond just the health system. We need large-scale changes to protect people’s mental health.
The charities acknowledge the important connection between mental health and physical conditions but emphasise that this should not mean scrapping a standalone mental health plan.
“The merging of the mental health plan with a Major Conditions Strategy risks excluding our children and young people, who are less likely to experience chronic ill-health, yet are the most likely to benefit from early action to protect their mental health. “Prevention should be at the heart of the new plan – for all the conditions it will cover – but the government’s emphasis is on the other end of life: extending people’s healthy life expectancy.”
We need sustained investment in high quality person-centred support for mental health and social care services, but a percentage of NHS spend should be dedicated to preventative mental health interventions, working with and developed alongside people more likely to experience a mental health difficulty.”
Andy Bell, interim Chief Executive of Centre for Mental Health said:
“It is now twelve years since the last cross-government mental health strategy was published. A lot has changed since then, including rising rates of mental ill health. We urgently need a plan across the whole of government to help to create a mentally healthier society, to tackle the inequalities and injustices that create mental ill health, and to support public service to meet people’s needs more effectively.”
Mark Rowland, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation, said:
“Our collective voice sends a strong message that to prevent poor mental health and support people with mental health problems in England, there must be a dedicated strategy that shows our government is giving our mental health the priority it deserves.
The COVID pandemic and cost of living crisis have only increased the urgent need for such a plan. England will now be the only UK country without either a dedicated mental health strategy or a commitment to create such a plan.”
Lea Milligan, Chief Executive of MQ Mental Health Research said:
“What we need is a concentrated strategy from the government that focuses on levelling up mental health services, provides access to early intervention for all children and an investment in mental health research. Without this focus we run the risk of letting down the 1 in 4 people in the UK impacted by mental illness.”