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First national mental health priority is accountability, says Murdoch

The newly appointed National Mental Health director told NHS Confederation yesterday (16 June) that her first priority is to improve transparency in the mental health system.

Claire Murdoch, who was appointed in April and officially began the post this week, said: “We need to have a clearer way of holding our commissioners transparently to account on what they’re doing in mental health.”

She also laid out ambitious targets to be achieved by 2020 as part of the government’s commitment to improving mental health care.

These included ensuring that at least 50% of hospitals had 24-hour psychiatric liaison services, that the Improving Access to Psychological Therapy (IAPT) programme reached 25% of people in need, reducing suicides by 10%, and ending the practice of placing children in out of area psychiatric services.

Murdoch pointed out that the clock is ticking on the Five Year Forward View and that it is now a three and a half year plan.

“My immediate priority is to drive transparency into the three and a half year plan,” she added.

NHS England will publish the mental health implementation plan next month, explaining what is required of all participants in the system.

The director said that although IAPT currently reaches 15% of patients, this was a significant improvement on before, and further improvements could be made.

“I work on the basis that success begets success,” she said, adding that success in meeting the 2020 goals could lead to more ambitious targets in the future.

Murdoch added that the current financial pressures on the NHS are making it harder to implement changes in mental health care.

“It feels a bit like we’re all on a black run with finances the way they are,” she said. “If we’re not careful, we’ll carry on doing things the way we’ve always done because we’re in crisis mood.

“I think the turn for health and wellbeing is a more psychologically-minded approach for great care. My priority is to have a transparent plan that people see is credible.”

Murdoch also said that mental health reforms should be “one of the golden threads” in sustainability and transformation plans (STPs).

At another session at the NHS Confederation conference, Norman Lamb, a former care minister, warned that there is a danger mental health care will be further marginalised in STPs.

Dr Amanda Doyle, co-chair of NHS Clinical Commissioners, agreed that mental health had to be “one of the key aspects” of an STP, saying that mental health considerations should be embedded in all aspects, including primary care, crisis care and A&E medicine.

Dr Jonathan Fielder, director of specialised commissioning at NHS England, argued that funding the mental health reforms would be a challenge because of forthcoming funding cuts.

Specialised spending will receive a 7% funding increase this year, but that will be cut to 4.8% the year after.

He said the solution was to “stop doing things we know don’t work and start switching to things that do work”.

Doyle agreed, saying that service reforms could also generate savings – for example, abolishing out of area placements would save “tens of millions” of pounds.

Read about the conference and STPs in the upcoming July/August edition of NHE.

(Image c. Dominic Lipinski from PA Wire)




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