UK government launches mental health taskforce

Following the October announcement that £120 million is to be invested in mental health services, a new mental health taskforce is to be established and chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

The group will include Cabinet ministers from across the coalition government who will work to bring treatments for mental health problems in line with those for physical health. As part of this initiative, from April 2015 the first waiting time standards for mental health in the NHS will be introduced, setting the waiting times at within six weeks for 75 per cent of people referred to the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies programme, with 95 per cent being treated within 18 weeks. The aim is also to treat more than 50 per cent of people experiencing a first episode of psychosis within two weeks.

The government’s mental health strategy has also seen an investment of £400 million to expand talking therapies.

Nick Clegg said, “Mental health affects every aspect of our lives. One in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem and it costs the country more than £100 billion. This is too big an issue for the NHS to deal with alone. The whole of government needs to combine its efforts and pool its resources to help the millions of people whose mental health condition is preventing them from getting on in life.”

The taskforce will include the Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt, Home Secretary Theresa May, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling, Business Secretary Vince Cable, Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander and ministers from Education, Health and Defence.

It will meet within days to examine: how to improve mental health services for young people; welfare and employment issues and helping people back into work, as well as how to improve crisis care and prevent people with severe mental health problems ending up in police cells and prisons.

At present only a quarter of people with a common mental health problem get treatment, mostly in the form of medication. The most common mental health problem is depression which is experienced by 8 to 12 per cent of the population.

The £100 billion cost quoted is attributed to lost working days, benefits paid to those who cannot work because of a mental health issue, and treatment of preventable illness.

The publication Achieving Better Access to Mental Health Services, which was published in October, outlines what the government is doing to provide better access to care in mental health services over the next year, plus its plans up to 2020.

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