More effort should be made to address the wellbeing of NHS and social care staff working in mental health according to one of the interim findings from a taskforce set up by NHS England to improve mental health services.
The group’s initial report - The Five Year Forward View Mental Health Taskforce: public engagement findings – captured the feedback from 20,000 patients, carers, members of the public and health professionals.
Of those, around a quarter were mental health practitioners, 5% were practitioners working in the NHS outside of mental health and 4% were social care professionals.
Better access to high quality services, a wider choice of treatments, more focus on prevention, more funding and less stigma were the top five calls for change by 2020.
“There was an expressed view it was critical to recognise the environment and working practices could have an impact on the wellbeing of the workforce”
Mental health taskforce survey findings
Other issues put forward by professionals responding to the survey included the “need to improve morale and the psycho-social working environment” for staff, “especially given ever increasing pressures”.
“There was an expressed view that it was critical to recognise that environment and working practices could have an impact on the wellbeing of the workforce,” said the report.
However, the findings also highlighted people’s descriptions of encountering “stigmatising attitudes” from some staff within mental health services, as well as those working in the wider NHS, including GP surgeries and non-clinical staff.
One respondent said: “We need staff actually showing respect for patients with mental health problems and acknowledging that they are people who have a character and abilities beyond their mental illness - we are more than our problems.”
Those involved said that they wanted professionals to have a better understanding of the psycho-social causes of mental health problems, as well as the symptoms, particularly for people with complex needs. They wanted professionals to treat “the person, not the diagnosis”.
“We need staff showing respect for patients with mental health problems and acknowledging they are people who have a character and abilities beyond their mental illness”
Staff should have the skills to work collaboratively to identify goals and plan care and treatment with patients, and to involve carers appropriately and meaningfully, said respondents.
The report also identified support for staff across the NHS to receive training in accredited mental health first aid, increased mental health awareness, suicide prevention, LGBT awareness and culture awareness for working with people from black and minority ethnic communities.
Paul Farmer, chair of the taskforce and chief executive of mental health charity Mind, said: “There is a clear consensus among everyone we have spoken to so far that things need to happen – and urgently.
“We need also to look at what we can do for everyone struggling with their mental health and asking the NHS for help now and in the future, whatever their age or background. The taskforce has the chance in a generation to deliver change that is achievable, urgent and necessary.”
The taskforce’s full report will be published later this year and will set out proposals for five year national mental health strategy.