Mental Health taskforce report
A report has been produced by a taskforce set up by NHS England. Findings show that around three quarters of people with mental health problems receive no help at all. Ministers have agreed that more needs to be done, and have committed an extra £1bn a year by 2020, helping to treat 1 million more people per year- the next five years will build the foundations for the next generation.
Prime Minister David Cameron said: “We should be frank. We have not done enough to end the stigma of mental health. We have focused a lot on physical health and we haven’t as a country focused enough on mental health.” Poor mental health can drive a 50% increase in costs in physical care, and with suicide and self harm on the rise we need to take action now to provide the same level of support to mental health patients as we do for the physically ill.
Mental health problems represent the largest single cause of disability in the UK. The cost to the economy is an estimated £105 billion per year- roughly the cost of the entire NHS.
One contributor to the report stated: “The NHS needs a far more proactive and preventative approach to reduce the long term impact for people experiencing mental health problems and for their families, and to reduce costs for the NHS and emergency services”.
The priority actions for the NHS by 2020/21, taken from the report are:
- 7 day NHS- right care, right time, right quality
- Integrated mental and physical health approach
- Promoting good mental health and preventing poor mental health- helping people lead better lives as equal citizens
Of course, a 7 day NHS already exists for emergency care, but to offer the full range of mental and physical health services 24/7, funding is needed.
The extra £1bn will come from the £8.4bn the government has already promised to the health service during this parliament, but is on top of the extra money that has already been promised to children’s services. The funding is intended to go towards:
- 600,000 more people getting talking therapy
- Every A&E to get a mental health liaison team
- Maternity units to get perinatal psychiatry to catch depression in new mothers
- Extra help for children and young people with eating disorders
- More crisis teams to keep people out of hospital
The worry here is that the money isn’t ringfenced, so will it be used to pay off some of the current NHS debts rather than on enhancing the mental health service?
Currently, less than a tenth of NHS funds go to mental illness and severe cuts since 2010 have left 5000 fewer mental health nurses as well as 8% fewer mental health beds. Professor Sir Simon Wessely, the president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, says mental health funding has been cut by 8%. As budgets are reducing, mental health care such as social care and residential housing is facing more pressures and the level of service is suffering as a result.
Figures obtained through a Freedom of Information request showed the budgets for mental health trusts fell by 2% from 2013/14 to 2014/15.Of the 53 out of 59 mental health trusts in England which responded to the FOI request, 29 said their budget would be lower this year than last.
People with a serious mental illness are asking for the same level of treatment that they would get if they had a serious physical illness. But despite mental health affecting one in four people and being both the largest single cost across the NHS and the most common reason for days lost from work, mental health has been neglected, and lagged far behind the support available for physical health. Let’s hope that this changes now that it has been recognised by the Government and that the money is used to improve the mental healthcare in the UK, achieving the parity of esteem that the NHS sees as a key priority.