Will Mental Health Be A Priority For The NHS?

Our response to the release of the government’s 10-year plan for the NHS

On the day of the release of the government’s 10-year plan for the NHS, The Shaw Mind Foundation cautiously welcomes the renewed commitment to improving mental health services. The caution is driven by the reality of where the staff will come from and how local communities and third sector organisations will be engaged in the longer term improvement.

For crisis care it’s good to see a commitment to more rapid access to mental healthcare, including round-the-clock advice from NHS 111 by 2023 and tailored services for young adults. The SMF has seen examples of young people having to wait a very long time in A&E, at the point when they are most vulnerable. This leads to delays in accessing the right care and incredible worry for families and so we very much welcome this initiative.
The PM has also vowed that young people will no longer be forced to restart their treatment with adult services when they turn 18. The SMF has long campaigned for a focus on early treatment for young people and their families; if they are catapulted into the adult system, often when they are not ready, it can result in their recovery taking much longer. As such, a service that treats the young person based on their needs, rather than their age, has to be welcomed.

There is a much used phrase in services under pressure – ‘if it is not measured it’s not delivered’ and whilst the SMF can’t condone that approach, it is understandable. And so an introduction of access targets for mental health services has to be seen as a good thing – as long as those targets get to the heart of the issue, which is the need to start treatment rather than just an assessment to be told you need to wait a further period for treatment.

The SMF has spoken to MPs previously about the need for true parity of esteem between mental and physical health in terms of funding, and so the news that CCGs are to be required to give full Investment Standard Growth (ISG) – plus new investment – is particularly welcome. It is essential that CCGs are held to account for ensuring and demonstrating that the investment actually does go to the front line services it was earmarked for. That investment is an additional 2.3 billion over 5 years to frontline mental health services, but this must be viewed in the context of the millions that have been cut from parts of the NHS and all other public services over the years, along with the chronically underfunded position mental health services have been in historically.

Kate Majid CEO of the Shaw Mind Foundation said:

“Whilst the investment into increasing capacity in secondary care services is welcome currently 1 post in 11 is vacant across NHS and securing the workforce to fulfil the pledges will be very challenging The SMF strongly believes that the the only way this can be achieved is by all sectors across the mental health system working together and working together in a way that is routed in empowering local communities to develop the resilience to support local people . The NHS cannot work in isolation and investment is needed in public health, social care, early years and youth services if we are to achieve true parity for mental health.

Without the system working together with the required level of investment across all areas people will continue to need NHS support and not get the help they need until they reach crisis point. The real question for me is will this address the need to focus on prevention? The promised investment is clearly needed to address historical and chronic under funding of mental health services however we need to start investing in preventative approaches and interventions in order to safeguard the mental health of generations to come if it can do that then it truly will be a long term plan”