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Prime Minister unveils plans to 'transform' mental health support

Monday, 09 January 2017 Mind

The Prime Minister Theresa May has today announced a comprehensive package of measures to transform mental health support in our schools, workplaces and communities.

On the same day, the Government has published its response to the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health, a five-year plan launched last year by a taskforce led by Mind’s Chief Executive Paul Farmer. Meanwhile, the Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt has announced new suicide prevention measures and plans to better support people at risk of self harm.

Prime Minister Theresa May said:

“For too long mental illness has been something of a hidden injustice in our country, shrouded in a completely unacceptable stigma and dangerously disregarded as a secondary issue to physical health. Yet left unaddressed, it destroys lives, it separates people from each other and deepens the divisions within our society. Changing this goes right to the heart of our humanity; to the heart of the kind of country we are, the values we share, the attitudes we hold and our determination to come together and support each other.

“I want us to employ the power of government as a force for good to transform the way we deal with mental health problems right across society, and at every stage of life.

“What I am announcing are the first steps in our plan to transform the way we deal with mental illness in this country at every stage of a person’s life: not in our hospitals, but in our classrooms, at work and in our communities.

“This starts with ensuring that children and young people get the help and support they need and deserve – because we know that mental illness too often starts in childhood and that when left untreated, can blight lives, and become entrenched.

“This is a historic opportunity to right a wrong, and give people deserving of compassion and support the attention and treatment they deserve. And for all of us to change the way we view mental illness so that striving to improve mental wellbeing is seen as just as natural, positive and good as striving to improve our physical wellbeing.”

The plans include: 

New support for schools with every secondary school in the country to be offered mental health first aid training and new trials to look at how to strengthen the links between schools and local NHS mental health staff. There will also be a major thematic review of children and adolescent mental health services across the country, led by the Care Quality Commission, to identify what is working and what it not and a new Green Paper on children and young people’s mental health to set out plans to transform services in schools, universities and for families.

A new partnership with employers to improve mental health support in the workplace. The Prime Minister has appointed Lord Dennis Stevenson and Mind’s Paul Farmer to drive work with business and the public sector to support mental health in the workplace. They will lead a review on how best to ensure employees with mental health problems are supported in the workplace. This will involve practical help including promoting best practice and learning from employers already doing well on workplace wellbeing, as well as offering tools to organisations, whatever size they are, to help with employee wellbeing and mental health. It will review recommendations around discrimination in the workplace on the grounds of mental health.                                                                         

Further alternatives to hospital to support people in the community. The government will invest £15m to provide and promote new models of community–based care such as crisis cafes and community clinics.

Plans to expand treatment by investing in and expanding digital mental health services by spending £67.7m on digital mental health package so that people worried about stress, anxiety or more serious issues can go online, check their symptoms and access digital therapy.

New ways to ‘right the injustices’ people with mental health problems face. Currently people with mental health problems who are struggling with debt can be charged up to £300 by their GP to provide evidence of their mental health problems. The Department for Health will undertake a formal review of the ‘mental health debt form’, working with Money and Mental Health. The government will also support NHS England’s commitment to eliminate inappropriate placements to inpatient beds for children and young people by 2021.

Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, said:

“It’s important to see the Prime Minister talking about mental health and shows how far we have come in bringing the experiences of people with mental health problems up the political agenda. Mental health should be at the heart of government, and at the heart of society and communities – it’s been on the periphery for far too long.

“We welcome the announcements around a focus on prevention in schools and workplaces and support for people in crisis. The proof will be in the difference it makes to the day-to-day experience of the one in four who will experience a mental health problem this year. Mental health is everyone’s business and we need to see sustained leadership to make sure services and support improve for all of us with mental health problems. Having been neglected for decades, we need to see it made a priority for decades to come to make sure everyone with mental health problems can live the life they want to lead.”

On the same day, the Government has published its response to the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health, a five-year plan launched last year by a taskforce led by Mind’s Chief Executive Paul Farmer. The Government has accepted the taskforce’s recommendations.

Paul Farmer said:

“I welcome the Government’s response to the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health and am pleased that in general our recommendations have been accepted, in some cases with commitments that go beyond what we recommended.

“The key now is in the delivery. The reality today is that many people with mental health problems just aren’t getting the service and support they desperately need. We know that things won’t change overnight but we do need to see urgent progress and a sustained commitment to making mental health a priority across all government departments if we are to address the damaging impact of decades of neglect and underinvestment. We will be keeping a close eye on the delivery of the Five Year Forward View and holding government to account on the promises made today.”

Jacqui Dyer, vice-chair of the NHS’s mental health taskforce, said:

“I am pleased with the response from the Government, which provides a great foundation from which to improve mental health policy across government.

“We need to be careful not to fall into the trap of focusing on a one-size-fits-all approach to mental health. It’s good to see specific groups, such as children and young people, identified as needing special attention but there are many people with mental health problems who are subject to huge inequalities when it comes to accessing services and support. People from BAME and LGBT groups, for example, get a particularly raw deal and the risk is that, by failing to tailor the approach to address these historical inequalities, some groups remain invisible and will continue to not to able to access the right support at the right time.

“The Five Year Forward View is the opportunity to tackle these important issues, but government needs to make a concerted effort to embed a focus on addressing inequalities in each and every recommendation it has accepted. The Government has accepted our call for a new equalities champion for mental health to drive the change needed and we look forward to hearing more detail on this soon.”

Meanwhile, the Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt has announced new suicide prevention measures and plans to better support people at risk of self harm.

More mental health professionals will be posted in accident and emergency departments and local authorities will be expected to strengthen their suicide prevention plans by the end of 2017. In addition, the NHS will develop a new care pathway for self-harm, which it says will provide greater consistency in how people are cared for across the NHS, with better guidelines for recognising, treating and managing of self-harm.

Paul Farmer said:

“We are pleased that the Department of Health has strengthened its plans around suicide prevention. The number of suicides has risen recently, after a long period of decline, and we need to see urgent action to address this worrying trend. No one in touch with services, asking for help, should reach the point of taking their own life. So much more can be done to prevent people reaching crisis point in the first place if people at risk get the right support at the right time.”




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