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May promises new measures to support mental health

Prime minister Theresa May has promised new funding, reforms to the health service and efforts to tackle the stigma of mental health in today’s annual Charity Commission lecture.

Last year the Mental Health Taskforce, led by Mind chief executive Paul Farmer, warned that mental health services are marginalised in the NHS, leaving patients unable to access the care they need.

In response, the government promised an additional £1bn in funding, but an NHS Providers survey found that nearly two-thirds of mental health trust leaders believe CCGs will divert this funding towards acute care.

Today May announced a separate review, chaired by Farmer and former HBOS chair and mental health campaigner Lord Dennis Stevenson, into best practice for supporting employees with mental illness in the workplace.

For children’s mental health services, the CQC will carry out a major thematic review of child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS), to identify what is working and what is not.

The CQC and Ofsted will also carry out a review of their joint CAMHS inspections. Past research from the Children’s Commissioner shows that 28% of children referred to CAMHS have been turned away.

Other reforms to improve children’s mental healthcare include offering mental health first aid training to every secondary school in the country; a new green paper setting out plans to transform school, university and family mental health services; and trials of closer partnerships between schools and mental health services.

May said: “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.”

Farmer said seeing the prime minister talk about mental health showed how far the issue had come from being “on the periphery” of political discourse.

However, he added that the proof would be in the difference the announcements made to the lives of the one in four people with mental illness.

“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,” Farmer argued.

“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.”

The estimated economic and social cost of mental illness is £105bn, similar to the entire NHS budget, and days lost to mental health conditions costs employers around £9bn a year.

In addition, today the government published an updated and strengthened suicide prevention strategy, after the Health Select Committee warned that the suicide rate is still too high.

May also promised up to £15m in additional funding for community-led mental health services, including crisis cafes and community clinics, as a substitute for patients going to A&E or their GP. An initial £15m fund has led to 88 new services being created.

Furthermore, the prime minister pledged that the DH, in partnership with Money and Mental Health, would review the ‘mental health debt form’, where GPs can charge up to £300 for a form to prove patients in debt have mental health issues.

The government will also speed up £67.7m to boost digital mental health services instead of face-to-face services, and support the NHS commitment to abolish out-of-area mental health placements for children and young people.

(Image c. Dominic Lipinski from PA Wire)

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Liz   09/01/2017 at 14:46

Mental Health care in this country is a shocking and total disgrace. I speak from bitter personal experience; my Brother took an overdose and died in August after both he and I asked his mental health unit if he could be sectioned. Let's hope all this can be changed swiftly, and especially that ALL money allocated to mental health care goes where it's MEANT to go, and not used elsewhere, to key areas such as family therapy, CAMHS, and maternal mental health, so that we do our VERY BEST to tackle mental health problems early in life. Money for mental health care MUST be ring-fenced. End the stigma - no health without mental health!

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