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18.05.17

Mental health must be ‘golden thread’ in STPs and new models of care

Despite early success in some vanguard sites, full opportunities to improve mental health care through integrated approaches have not yet been realised, a report released today has found, and recommends that STPs need “ambitious but credible” plans to improve services in new models of care.

The ‘Mental health and new models of care’ research, conducted by the King’s Fund in partnership with the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCPsych), found that while some vanguard sites had improved care through removing barriers between mental health and other parts of the health system, there was a lot of work left to do to embed mental health into other parts of the NHS in many parts of the country.

It also found that the level of priority given to mental health in developing new models of care was not sufficiently high – though some areas did report that new models of care had made it easier for local professionals to obtain informal advice from mental health professionals without making a referral.

“Developing more integrated approaches to mental health should be a key priority given the close links between mental health and physical health outcomes, and the impact these have on the quality and costs of care,” the report read.

“It is now well established that when the mental health needs of people with physical health conditions are not adequately addressed, this increases costs and undermines patient outcomes.”

Researchers also discovered that through working with the voluntary sector, integrated care teams in some vanguard sites were able to better support the mental health and wellbeing of those with complex needs.

The report also recommended a number of key measures, with researchers suggesting that mental health must be a core component of all work on new models of care, including in MCPs, PACS and acute care collaborations.

And STP leads were also told to set out “ambitious but credible” plans for improving mental health and integrating mental health into new models of care. It is vital that STP leaders are encouraged to make mental health a central part of their plans, and that they are able to take heed of the emerging lessons from vanguard sites.

They added that NHS England should hold local system leaders to account for including the development of integrated approaches to mental health in STPs, and for implementing these effectively.

“We recommend that only STP footprints that have articulated a clear ambition for this should be supported to roll out a new contractual model, such as an MCP, PACS or care homes contract,” the report added.

NHS Confederation’s Mental Health Network chief executive Sean Duggan said the report demonstrated how mental health needed to be a “golden thread” throughout STPs and new models of care, as he stated that his organisation were committed to ensuring services were integrated effectively. 

“The Five Year Forward View for Mental Health is a necessary, overdue and realistic plan to bring mental health care in England up to an acceptable standard and on a par with physical health,” he added.

“For this to happen, every part of the system, including any future government, must fulfil their commitments.”

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