NHS England is to invest an extra £1 billion a year into improving mental health services, in line with a wide-reaching package of recommendations made by the Mental Health Taskforce.
The Taskforce has now laid out its vision for how mental and physical health care can finally reach an equal footing, having gathered information from 20,000 members of the public, mental health patients and health care professionals to shape an ambitious action plan to change how care is delivered across the NHS.
Over the next five years, the Taskforce has proposed a three-pronged approach to improving care - through prevention, the expansion of mental health care such as seven day access in a crisis, and integrated physical and mental health care.
NHS England seems largely on board with the plan, committing to “the biggest transformation of mental health care across the NHS in a generation” and pledging to help more than a million extra people and invest more than a billion pounds a year by 2020/21.
Currently, one in four people will experience a mental health problem in their lifetime and the cost of mental ill health to the economy, NHS and society is £105 billion a year, and yet services have been long been woefully under par.
Just days ago, an independent report set up by the Royal College of Psychiatrists found that access to acute care for severely ill mental health patients is “inadequate nationally” and in some cases “potentially dangerous”, and that there are “major problems” both in admissions to psychiatric wards and in providing alternative care and treatment in the community.
The Taskforce report notes that only 15% of people who need psychological therapies currently get care. More action is also needed to help those with anxiety and depression to find or retain employment, it said, as well as on ensuring that people with long-term conditions have both their physical and mental health care met.
In response, NHS England says that, by 2020, “new funding should increase access to evidence-based psychological therapies to reach 25% of need, helping 600,000 more people access care,” and that, “combined with investing to double the reach of Individual Placement and Support for people with severe mental illness, this should support a total of 29,000 more people to find/stay in work each year”.
The report also highlights that only half of the country offers a 24/7 community-based mental health crisis service. But NHS England said new funding should be made available so by 2020/21 Crisis Resolution and Home Treatment Teams (CRHTTs) can offer intensive home treatment as an alternative to acute inpatient admission in each part of England.
The Taskforce also calls for an end to long-distance admissions, that clinical standards should be developed and rolled out as soon as funding allows, and for significant improvements in mental health research, so that the NHS can kick-start a ‘data revolution’ to ensure transparency on spending and the quality of care that people receive.
Wider recommendations include a government champion for equalities and health inequalities, and an independent system for scrutinising the quality of investigations into all deaths within in-patient mental health settings.
“This is a landmark moment for mental health care in this country, a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform services and support for people with mental health problems,” said Taskforce chair Paul Farmer, chief executive of MIND. “We are saying to the NHS, to government, to industry, to local leaders and to the public that mental health must be a priority for everyone in England”.
“Putting mental and physical health on an equal footing will require major improvements in seven day mental health crisis care, a large increase in psychological treatments, and a more integrated approach to how services are delivered. That’s what today’s taskforce report calls for, and it’s what the NHS is now committed to pursuing, said Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England.