NHS England has announced a major expansion of its Individual Placement and Support (IPS) scheme, designed initially to help tens of thousands of patients with serious mental health problems who want to employment.

The voluntary scheme is being rolled out to 28 new local NHS areas, meaning eight out of ten parts of England will now have access to the programme.

Access is expected to double to 20,000 people per year by 2020/21 and will continue to expand as part of the NHS Long Term Plan – aiming to helpan impressive 55,000 people each year by 2023/24.

Prime Minister Theresa May said of the service: “Helping those with mental ill health back into work is one of the best ways to ensure their health and happiness in the long term. This scheme is another important step forward in achieving that goal.”

She also noted that: “The government is working hard to ensure genuine parity of esteem between physical and mental health conditions, and our Long Term Plan will make the NHS a world leader in the care and support we provide to those who need it.”

“To help ramp up services, NHS England has launched IPS Grow, in partnership with Social Finance, a not-for-profit organisation who will work with service providers and a range of employment specialists, mental health experts and academics to support services across the country.

“To deliver the major expansion, services across England will employ hundreds of additional IPS employment specialists and team leaders – with IPS Grow providing hands on operational and local support Including support to recruit and train hundreds more staff.”

These schemes have already been shown to be cost-effective. A Centre for Mental Health review calculated that they can free up as much as £6,000 per patient over 18 months, which can be invested in other frontline care.