England's mental health services due for overhaul

Corridor before the hospital morgue

Mental health services across England are set for major change following publication of a plan to improve care by 2020.

The ‘Implementing the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health’ report, published yesterday, outlines how the new funding pledged as part of the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health will be made available to Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) across England.

The Implementing the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health will act as a blueprint for a better, more cost effective health service, based on recommendations made by the Mental Health Taskforce.

The report specifies four immediate changes that will be made to the mental health service sector upon implementing its plan.

An investment of £72 million over the next two years will help to integrate physical and mental health services, including the building of ‘Integrated Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT)’ services in up to a third of all CCGs across the UK. £17.8 million of funding in 2016/17 and up to £54 million in 2017/18 will be dedicated to training new staff to deliver a new ‘early implementer’ service.

An investment of £1.8 million will be used to launch six pilot sites testing new approaches to delivering mental health care. Specific focus will be on producing methods to reduce admissions and lengths of stay, as well as bringing people placed out of area closer to home.

Plans for a £365 million investment in specialist perinatal mental health services will also be made available, including a proposal to start a perinatal community development fund during 2016/17 in order to develop specialist teams and improve quality, particularly in areas of under-capacity.

A £12 million roll-out of ‘Liaison and Diversion Services’ will also be made available to the whole country over the next two years for those with mental health issues who find themselves in the judicial system.

Other areas covered in the report include children and young people’s mental health, which calls for refreshed Local Transformation Plans by October 2016; improving adult community crisis care, which aims to have at least 60% of those starting NICE-recommended treatment for psychosis to start therapy within two weeks of referral; and suicide prevention which calls for all CCGs to develop local suicide prevention plans to deliver the target of 10% fewer people taking their lives annually.

Claire Murdoch, NHS England’s national director for mental health, states in the document’s foreword: “The costs of mental ill health – whether to the individual, their family or carer, the NHS or wider society – are stark. So today we’re kick starting national action to overhaul and expand this long neglected part of the NHS.

“This roadmap for implementing the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health will improve access and outcomes, reduce inequality and deliver efficiencies across the local health and care economy."

Mental health has grown in its importance on the government’s agenda in recent years, leading to a drive to integrate both social and health care and increase mental health funding to the tune of £1 billion by 2020/21, in addition to the £1.4 billion already committed to children, young people and perinatal care.

As part of the overall objective to increase those accessing mental health services by 25% by 2020/21, 3,000 new mental health therapists will be co-located in primary care as part of the General Practice Forward View.

Numerous bodies have already voiced their support for the plan. Professor Sir Simon Wessely, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, who described the funding plans as “money well spent”, and Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind and chair of NHS England’s Mental Health Taskforce who welcomed to plan, describing it as “a step in the right direction.”

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Marco Ricci