One of the priorities for the NHS in the future must be “true parity of care between mental and physical health” Prime Minister Theresa May said in her speech on the future of the NHS delivered at the Royal Free Hospital on Monday
She said the long‐term plan for the health service must address the issue of mental health and said this was a “personal priority” for her.
“For too long we have accepted that if you have a mental illness too often you will not receive the same access to care as if you have a physical ailment. And that must change,” she said.
“The long‐term plan must contain proposals for mental health that are even more innovative and ambitious”
“This means that rather than just trying to catch up with the rest of the NHS, the long‐term plan must contain proposals for mental health that are even more innovative and more ambitious,” she said.
“This could include attracting more of the best graduates into the mental health professions; or finding new ways to provide joined‐up care in the community, or helping people to manage their conditions so they do not reach a crisis point.
“It must be supported by sustained investment that reaches the frontline of mental health services and staff.”
However, she also stressed that efforts to improve support went beyond the NHS into schools, the criminal justice system, and workplaces.
Work already under way to reduce stigma and discrimination had led to a rise in demand for help and NHS mental health services were “struggling to cope”, she added.
“Too often we hear that, in spite of the best efforts of staff, people are unable to access the support they need. So we must improve,” she said.
The Mental Health Network, which is part of the NHS Confederation, said that dramatically increased investment in mental health services will be needed to provide a mental health service that has parity with the service for physical health.
“The mental health sector must be given a bigger proportion of the NHS budget”
Sean Duggan, chief executive, Mental Health Network
Research commissioned by the NHS Confederation found that current mental health spending would likely need to double to meet the standard of a modernised service where the number of people with mental health problems receiving NHS treatment reaches 70%. It is currently 40%.
“While the mental health sector has been a beneficiary of one‐off funding increases for the NHS over the past five years, acute trusts have seen bigger benefits with their incomes growing nearly three times as fast as mental health trusts,” Sean Duggan, chief executive of the Mental Health Network, said.
“To have true parity of esteem, the mental health sector must be given a bigger proportion of the NHS budget and we hope this will be realised in the details of the funding settlement.”