STPs a vital opportunity to harness mental health services, says NHS England

Targets for the Fiver Year Forward View (FYFV) for Mental Health can only be met through making the most of STPs by working with patients at a local level to ensure care is delivered effectively, a report released by NHS England has argued.

The research looked at the targets of the plan for mental health a year on from its publication in February 2016, and found that though mental health provision had increased and trusts were heading in the right direction, there was still work to do to ensure goals were met.

But NHS England said that STPs were already having a positive effect, adding: “We are already starting to see the impact of this focus on mental health through STPs, where increasingly local systems are not only rising to the challenge but also recognising the opportunity of investing in mental health to deliver a more sustainable health and care system.”

The review emphasised the need to not simply analyse data and figures in terms of measuring progress for mental health care, but instead look at the people “seeing and feeling” the benefit of increased funding and support for mental health.

It was also announced that over 120,000 more people were expected to receive mental health care and treatment in priority services this financial year, and that the Mental Health Investment Standard was on track to be met across England next year and in 2018-19.

When it came to STPs, NHS England described them as a “powerful medium” to deliver the five-year plan.

“Indeed, wider determinants of health such as housing, schooling and employment, are key to deliver the transformation needed in mental health services and care,” it said. “The most advanced STPs provide good examples of how collaboration across the health and care systems could benefit people with mental health needs.

“NHS England and NHS Improvement national and regional teams will work closely with STPs in 2017-18 to harness the changes needed in STP delivery and ensure that the opportunities to benefit people with mental health needs are leveraged to their maximum through collaborative working across health and care organisations.

“Work is currently underway to develop the mental health improvement and support offer across national and regional teams, to ensure successful delivery of mental health care and services elements of STPs and the FYFV for Mental Health.”

However, parts of the report showed areas where change was still needed to improve care for people struggling with mental health problems.

In particular, in secure care pathways, it reported that there were clear demographic groups suffering more than others, showing that 77% of people in low and medium secure mental health services were men, whilst black and black British groups were found to be four times more likely to be detained in secure mental health care than white British – and six times more likely in London.

The report also detailed how six pilot sites were being tested to deliver new models of care where providers of inpatient beds take on responsibility for their commissioning budgets. It added that nine more urgent and emergency care vanguard areas had been chosen in a bid to test models of crisis care for children and young people, making up an investment of £4.4m.

The report comes just two weeks after the six CEOs of the mental health policy group, including NHS Confederation’s Sean Duggan from the Mental Health Network, had a letter published in the Times which called on more funding to be delivered to front line mental health services.

“Today marks one year since the publication of the FYFV for Mental Health, the long overdue road map to better mental health services in England. In that time, we have been encouraged by the initial progress and promises of change from the prime minister, who described the ‘burning injustice’ of the current state of affairs,” the letter said.

“But we are only at the start of what needs to be a long-term commitment to changing the way we see and respond to mental health. Change is happening — for example, some areas have hugely improved access to talking therapies, perinatal psychiatry and child eating disorders. Yet some local areas are not meeting targets (61% in the case of talking therapies), leaving people facing long waiting lists and more likely to reach crisis point.

The extra £1bn pledged by the government to implement the road map has yet to reach the frontline: the prime minister and NHS bodies need to ensure that it does over the next four years. Until everyone can get the mental health support they need at the point they need it, this job is not done.”

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