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07.07.17

Sector leaders call for mental health to be central to STPs

The health sector has today come together to call for mental health to be made a central component of local STP plans.

Following the release of NHS Providers’ state of the sector report, which warned that mental health services were struggling to deliver existing services under immense pressure, organisations from the NHS and the third sector have called on the government to act to save the ailing sector.

Many have also told the prime minister to deliver on promises made to put mental health on the same level of importance as physical health.

“We wholly agree that it is crucial that money committed for mental health is spent only for this purpose and also that mental health must be central to sustainability and transformation partnerships,” said Dr Phil Moore, chair of NHSCC’s Mental Health Commissioners Network.

“As clinical commissioners, we are frontline clinicians who know only too well the impact that poor mental health can have on people,” he added. “We are working hard with partners across the system to find the best ways to join up pathways to improve our patients’ experiences and make sure that they have access to the right care at the right time.”

Dr Moore also highlighted the importance of transparency in mental health spending, which is a key part of making sure commissioners consider the totality of spend.

“It must be recognised that while mental health trusts, like those surveyed for the NHS Providers report, provide invaluable and critical services, mental healthcare is wider than this,” he said.

“To get the best possible outcomes for their population, CCGs are also investing more in new models of care that focus on crisis care and recovery out of hospital, exploring new voluntary sector partnerships and investing in primary care services.”

And Sean Duggan, who is chief executive of the Mental Health Network, an arm of NHS Confederation, said that though there had been huge progress in tackling the stigma around mental health, this had also led to services being stretched with larger numbers of people coming forward to ask for help.

“The government has pledged to put mental health on a par with physical health but this needs to be reflected in investment and the continued progress of the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health,” he explained. “Securing a sustainable mental health workforce fit for the 21st century is a crucial part of this.

“Getting mental health services right will relieve pressure on other parts of the health system and we would urge the government to deliver on its promises and ensure mental health gets the equal status it deserves.”

Organisations must be held to account for missing funding commitments

Helen Gilburt, a fellow in health policy at the King’s Fund, also joined NHSCC in reiterating the importance of mental health being engaged in STPs more effectively.

“Mental health services must be at the heart of ambitions to transform the NHS to make sure it can meet future need,” she commented.

“NHS organisations must be held to account if they fail to meet commitments to ensure funding reaches the frontline. It is also vital that sustainability and transformation plans have a sufficient focus on mental health.”

And without this, Gilburt said that it was difficult to see how the political rhetoric around parity of esteem for mental health will be matched by the kind of high-quality mental health services that people need.

“The NHS is under severe financial pressure, but sacrificing funding for mental health to relieve other parts of the system is at odds with the commitment to parity of esteem between mental and physical health,” she explained.

Mind: we will check on commissioners to ensure funding transparency is delivered

The chief executive of mental health charity Mind, Paul Farmer, also said that the report’s revelation that many trust leaders felt that funding was not reaching the frontline was very concerning.

“The Five Year Forward View for Mental Health came with a commitment by the NHS to spend £1bn more on mental health services by 2020-21,” he stated. “Evidence suggests that it is materialising and reaching the frontline but it is concerning to see that people don’t think this is happening.

“Local commissioners are now required to report on spend on mental health so transparency around funding should improve and charities like Mind will be keeping an eye on this and making sure the money gets where it needs to be.”

Farmer added that mental health had been underfunded and under resourced for too long with dire consequences for those who suffer from serious conditions.

“If people don’t get the help they need, when they need it, they are likely to become more unwell and need more intensive – and expensive – support further down the line,” he warned. “This is the opportunity to get this right, to start building the kind of NHS mental health services that will carry us into the future and make sure everyone with a mental health problem gets the help and support they need.”  

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