When we developed the Five-Year Forward View for Mental Health in 2016, we did it with an understanding that new plans take time to get going, which made 2019 a critical year for delivery
Now that the NHS has set the direction of travel, responsibility lies with local decision makers to develop and deliver their own long-term plans that reflect their communities’ needs. The plan is clear that this must be done by involving local people. Charities like Mind will be keeping a close eye on this and supporting people with experience of mental health problems and experts like our local Minds are fully involved in this process.
Above all, though, the NHS both nationally and locally must not lose sight of the fact that we are already in the middle of an existing five-year plan for mental health services. When we developed the Five-Year Forward View for Mental Health in 2016, we did it with an understanding that new plans take time to get going, which made 2019 a critical year for delivery.
The NHS in England has some huge commitments to meet this year to improve services and its own accountability measure for clinical commissioning groups – the Improvement and Assessment Framework – shows that although there has been some progress in access and recovery rates, there is still a long way to go in areas like early intervention.
And beyond both the five-year and longer term plans, there is growing recognition that the NHS is only one piece of the puzzle. We are still waiting to hear what the government’s plans are for social care and public health, which are vital to help people with mental health problems and to relieve pressure on the NHS.
A comprehensive, cross-government strategy is also needed to complement the NHS plan – tackling issues like benefits and housing which have an enormous impact on the day-to-day experiences of people with mental health problems.
We have been waiting a long, long time for better support and have heard a lot of promises made in recent years. We are starting to see results, but the challenge is huge.
People with mental health problems deserve better and only when we start to hear that people can get the support they need, when they need it, will we feel that we are making sufficient progress. Change is possible, but only with the full commitment and participation of the NHS and its partners from top to bottom.