NHS England launches new mental health taskforce

NHS England is creating a new taskforce to develop a national strategy for mental health.

As signalled in the NHS Five Year Forward View, the new taskforce will create a five-year mental health strategy for people of all ages across England.

It is expected to examine the variation in the availability of mental health services across England, look at the outcomes for people who are using services, and identify key priorities for improvement.

The taskforce will also consider ways of promoting positive mental health and wellbeing, ways of improving the physical health of people with mental health problems, and whether we are spending money and time on the right things.

It will report later this year.

NHS England CEO Simon Stevens said: “The tide of public opinion is shifting in favour of mental health and wellbeing. People are rightly no longer willing to put up with mental health as the poor relation to the rest of the health service. That’s a hugely powerful impetus for improvement, creating the opportunity for this Taskforce to chart a shared direction for us all over the next five years.”

The taskforce will be chaired by Paul Farmer, the CEO of mental health charity Mind, and made up of health and community leaders and experts in the field of mental health including specialist doctors, charities, service users and their families. 

Farmer said that the taskforce will aim to drive change in the delivery of services, making them first rate for all ages.

“Stigma around mental health is starting to reduce as professionals and the public begin to realise that we must treat mental health with the same level of respect and importance as physical health,” he added. “This is a chance to turn the growing awareness of mental health into action and effective delivery across England so that people can get the right help at the right time, investing in preventing problems becoming crises.”

Members of the taskforce will also include Sarah Brennan from Young Minds, Mark Winstanley of Rethink Mental Illness, Tom Wright of Age UK, Lord Victor Adebowale, Sarah Yiannoullou of NSUN, and senior representatives from the British Psychological Society, the Royal College of Nursing, the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the NHS Confederation Mental Health Network, local government, the Royal College Of GPs.

Working alongside Public Health England, Health Education England, NHS Trust Development Authority, Monitor, the CQC and expert partners, they will build on the progress made so far including the new access and waiting times targets announced last autumn, as well as work done by the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Taskforce.

Stephen Dalton, chief executive of the NHS Confederations’ Mental Health Network, who will be on the taskforce, said: “This needs to signal an end to institutional bias against mental health. Now we need political leadership. Turning around years of underfunding and disinvestment in mental health services will demand a sustained programme of investment."

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