A week ago we welcomed the independent report from the Mental Health Taskforce, setting out how national bodies, including health agencies and government departments, should work together over the next five years to improve mental health.
One in four of us will experience a mental health problem at some time in our lives. Mental health issues are also closely associated with health inequalities: people with mental illness die on average 15-20 years earlier than those without.
The Five Year Forward View for Mental Health represents an important opportunity to make significant progress within a generation, and deliver urgent, and achievable, change.
Many of you will have seen widespread media coverage on the day of the launch, boosted by an ongoing two weeks of programming on BBC One exploring mental health issues.
The Mental Health Taskforce was launched by NHS England in March 2015 to develop a new strategic approach to improve mental health outcomes across the NHS and make sure people can access evidence-based treatment rapidly when they need it. The approach is one of co-production, involving people with lived experience of mental health problems, carers, professionals, commissioners and providers.
The headlines have highlighted the report’s ambitious recommendations to tackle improvements to services and increased access, but at Public Health England we're thrilled that the report also recognises the opportunity for a shift towards prevention.
PHE’s work on mental health so far
We're committed to working with others to champion good mental health. To date, we have led work across the country to prevent poor mental health, prevent suicide and address the unacceptable inequalities experienced by people living with or recovering from a mental health problem.
At the start of the year I blogged about how we are supporting local authorities to prevent suicide and provide much-needed care and support for those bereaved. I have also blogged about our work in establishing a National Prevention Alliance for Mental Health, bringing together a group of over thirty organisations to make a sustained difference for both prevention of mental ill health and prevention of health problems for those with a metal health issue.
Currently our National Mental Health Intelligence Network provides vital information based on current and timely data to support our partners to evidence and commission the most effective work. And we support local authorities with advice on increasing uptake of the NHS Health Check and other screening programmes for everyone, including vulnerable groups such as people with a mental health condition.
Putting the new recommendations into action
The new Five Year Forward View for Mental Health sets out three main priority actions for the NHS by 2020/21. It also puts forward a series of recommendations that PHE and other partners must take forward in order to deliver real change. The three priority areas are:
- A 7 day NHS – right care, right time, right quality
This priority states that people facing a crisis should have access to mental health care 7 days a week and 24 hours a day, just as they can access urgent physical health care. In order to help meet this ambition, PHE will work with partners to identify how investment streams can be used to commission services proven to improve mental health and employment outcomes. We will also work with NHS England to develop new care pathways covering the full range of mental health conditions, with accompanying quality standards and guidance, and to support all local areas to establish multi-agency suicide prevention plans.
- An integrated mental and physical health approach
Mental health support should be made easily available across the NHS, and integrated services should ensure that health checks and programmes such as smoking cessation are made available for everyone with a severe mental illness. To work towards this priority, PHE will support commissioners to increase the offer and take up of information, tests and interventions for people with mental health problems, who are at greater risk of poor physical health. With our partners, we will also support Health and Wellbeing Boards to update their strategies to include mental health and comorbid alcohol and drug misuse, parenting programmes, and housing.
- Promoting good mental health and preventing poor mental health – helping people lead better lives as equal citizens.
Prevention is the only way that lasting change can be achieved, and requires contribution from across government, as well as other local partners. In order to help prevent poor mental health and build a better future for people of all ages, PHE will work to improve children and young people’s mental health, as part of the Future in Mind programme, continue our efforts to establish Mental Health Champions in each local authority area and work with the Department of Health, research charities and independent experts to publish a 10-year strategy for mental health research. We will also work with partners to improve mental health services in prisons, as well as for offenders returning to the community. We also continue our work to support all mental health inpatient units and facilities to be smoke-free by 2018.
The work we have done on mental health over the past year has given us great foundations on which to build in order to address these priorities. This work includes:
- Collaborating with the Centre for Mental Health to recruit mental health champions in 70 local authorities and working with the Mental Health Foundation to curate evidence on what works in prevention
- Producing guidance on making adult mental health facilities smoke free; 14 mental health trusts are now smoke free and we are working on similar guidance for child and adolescent mental health facilities
- Producing guidance for local areas on suicide prevention and bereavement support pathways
- Producing perinatal and infant mental health and children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing intelligence tools for local authorities and other commissioners
- leading on the public mental health leadership and workforce development framework to inform and influence the development of public health leadership and the workforce in relation to mental health
This year, we will continue to make the economic case for investment in prevention, providing local areas with better information on return on investment for prevention activities. And, we are working to deliver a public mental health Joint Strategic Needs Assessment tool for local areas – an important step forward in addressing the needs of communities across England.
We are well-positioned to support local areas to deliver the important changes set out in this new report. This includes increasing consistency in the adoption of prevention and early interventions to help tackle inequalities in mental health outcomes.
We look forward to many discussions on these issues at the first joint Local Government Association and PHE summit on public mental health next month.