“The NHS long-term plan makes some important new pledges to improve services for both children and adults with mental health difficulties but it will need to be accompanied by action across government to help bring about real equality for mental health,” Centre for Mental Health chief executive Sarah Hughes said today.

Responding to the publication of the NHS long-term plan, Sarah Hughes said: “The plan should help to scale up the level of support offered to people with mental health difficulties from the NHS. A truly comprehensive set of access standards, similar to those for physical health services, could help to bring parity a step closer if it is backed up with enough funding and the long-term investment in the workforce we need to offer people the right care at the right time.

A truly comprehensive set of access standards, similar to those for physical health services, could help to bring parity a step closer if it is backed up with enough funding and long-term investment in the workforce

“We welcome the plan’s commitment to extend access to mental health support to more children, young people and young adults up to age 25. For too many young people, mental health support is offered too late, with too many restrictions, and then they are forced to start again when they reach 18. We hope the NHS will radically redesign its mental health offer to young people so that it reaches out sooner, makes help-seeking much easier and friendlier, and provides consistent help into adult life.

“We welcome the NHS’s commitment to improving community mental health services, especially for people with the most serious and long-term conditions. For too many years, community mental health services have been ignored in national strategy and policy, and in many areas their capacity has fallen while demand for their help has gone up. Community services for people with the most serious needs have been under particular pressure, as a result of which some people have been admitted for long periods to ‘locked rehabilitation’ beds, often far from home. This has to change.

For too many young people, mental health support is offered too late, with too many restrictions, and then they are forced to start again when they reach 18.

“We are also pleased to see a continued focus on improving responses to mental health emergencies. While mental health crisis services have been a major focus of policy and practice in recent years, we know that too many people find they don’t get the right help when they need it most. And we know that people from many Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities continue to get the poorest responses. Consistently high quality help must be made available 24/7 in every local area, treating anyone in a mental health emergency with the same respect and dignity as we would expect for a physical health crisis.

“We welcome NHS England’s pledge that help with smoking cessation will be offered to ‘every patient who is receiving long term support from mental health and learning disability services’. It is a scandal that people with mental health problems die 15-20 years too soon. Helping those who want support to give up smoking will save lives and help to reduce one of the biggest health inequalities in Britain today.

It is a scandal that people with mental health problems die 15-20 years too soon.

“And we warmly welcome the continued commitment in the plan to keep extending access to evidence-based employment services using the Individual Placement and Support (IPS) model. We know that when people want help with work, IPS makes a life-changing difference, and we don’t believe anyone should miss out on it because of where they live.

“These are all exceptionally important commitments for the NHS to make and we welcome them. If they are properly funded and resolutely implemented with a robust workforce development plan, they will make a big difference. However, this plan on its own falls short of offering a comprehensive shift towards equality for mental health within the NHS. It says little about the role of primary care in mental health, despite the growing gap in services for people with a range of needs that fall between existing services. And there is scant focus on seeking to address longstanding inequalities in mental health despite the clear evidence about differences in access, experience and outcomes for many of the most disadvantaged and marginalised groups in society.

This plan on its own falls short of offering a comprehensive shift towards equality for mental health within the NHS

“The plan is also limited by applying only to the NHS. Good mental health support relies on effective social care working in an equal partnership with the NHS in every local area in England. It requires good housing, fair income entitlements and reform in the criminal justice system. And without investment in public mental health, we will continue to miss opportunities every day to promote better mental health for all and to save lives through suicide prevention. Funding cuts to local authorities have held them back for too long from taking action to bring about better mental health in communities and tackle inequalities.

“The Government must now step up and invest in public health, social care, early years and youth services if it is serious about improving our mental health and enabling mental health services to fulfil their potential. Without it, too many people will continue to need NHS support and not get the help they need until they reach crisis point.

The Government must now step up and invest in public health, social care, early years and youth services if it is serious about improving our mental health

“We therefore call on the Government today to commit to developing a comprehensive mental health strategy and investing in a much wider change process to bring about equality for mental health. Real change will not happen overnight, but we need to start now to tackle the ‘burning injustices’ the Prime Minister has acknowledged and work across public services nationwide to put mental health at the heart of decision-making at every level of government.”

Photo by Jacek Dylag on Unsplash

 

Response from the Mental Health Policy Group

"On behalf of the Mental Health Policy Group, we support the ambition to achieve a world class mental health service, which has rightly been given the attention it deserves in the NHS Long Term Plan. 
 
We welcome the commitment for mental health services to grow at a faster rate than the overall NHS budget, with a new ringfenced local investment fund worth at least £2.3 billion a year by 2023/24.
 
If delivered in full, the proposals should help children and young people stand a better chance of receiving the best start in life, help prevent mental health problems from developing later in childhood, and deliver far less fragmented mental health care. 
 
We’re also pleased to see a focus on improving services for people living with severe mental illnesses such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder by increasing access to mental health services in the community, as well as a continuing commitment to improve crisis care so that more people can access care and support where and when they need it. None of this is possible without us expanding the mental health workforce, including that of the voluntary and community sector.
 
However, we should not underestimate the scale of the challenge in ensuring that the money ear-marked for mental health reaches the frontline and that national policy is translated in local action. And, of course, in order to truly transform the experience of people with mental health problems, we need a cross-government approach so that problems people face in accessing support from other public services including public health, social care, housing and the benefits system are effectively tackled through the spending review in 2019.”
 
Professor Wendy Burn, President, Royal College of Psychiatrists
Sean Duggan, Chief Executive, Mental Health Network
Paul Farmer, Chief Executive, Mind
Sarah Hughes, Chief Executive, Centre for Mental Health
Mark Rowland, Chief Executive, Mental Health Foundation
Mark Winstanley, Chief Executive, Rethink Mental Illness