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Taskforce to draw up improvement plan for mental health services


NHS England is establishing a taskforce to develop its new five-year national strategy for mental health, the organisation has announced.

The taskforce, announced this afternoon, was trailed last autumn in NHS England’s five-year plan – the Five Year Forward View.

In a statement, NHS England said it would “explore the variation in the availability of mental health services across England, look at the outcomes for people who are using services, and identify key priorities for improvement”.

“This is a chance to turn the growing awareness of mental health into action”

Paul Farmer

It would also consider ways of promoting positive mental health and wellbeing, improving the physical health of people with mental health problems, and whether the NHS was spending money and time “on the right things”.

Paul Farmer, chief executive of the mental health charity Mind, has been appointed to chair the taskforce. It is expected to report its findings later this year.

Mr Farmer said: “Our taskforce will aim to drive change in the delivery of services so they are first-rate for all ages.

He said stigma around mental health was “starting to reduce” and the realisation was growing that it should be given the same level of respect and importance as physical health.

“This is a chance to turn the growing awareness of mental health into action and effective delivery across England so that people can get the right help at the right time, investing in preventing problems becoming crises,” he said.

Other members of the taskforce will include service users and representatives from mental health charities and professional organisations, including the Royal College of Nursing.

“We need greater emphasis on mental health in training and education across the workforce”

Simon Weesely

Launching the taskforce, NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said: “People are rightly no longer willing to put up with mental health as the poor relation to the rest of the health service. That’s a hugely powerful impetus for improvement.”

Geraldine Strathdee, NHS England’s national clinical director for mental health, described the taskforce as a “big moment for mental health”.

“We can tackle major challenges which include maximizing personalized, least restrictive home care, improving crisis care, reducing the 20 years premature mortality and improving transition from children’s to adult services,” she said.

Professor Sir Simon Wessely, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, added: “We also need greater emphasis on mental health in teaching, training and education across the workforce.”


Readers' comments (3)

  • Fantastic! About time! Let's make sure this really is a fundamental look at needs first, from outside the current system of care (which is not fit for purpose even though there are good parts). I suggest some initial questions: What is mental wellbeing? What is mental illness? Is that the same as mental difficulty? At what point do people who are struggling with difficulties become 'ill' and in need of support? These may seem like impertinent questions but at the present time even someone who is actively suicidal is frequently denied access to NHS MH services. Start with the individual and work from there, not with the system, and we can find cost-effective ways of providing much better services. Any care costs will be recovered through reduced cost to individuals, the community and employers caused by mental ill health. Fundamental redesign is essential.

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  • I hope the task force includes partners from social care eg The College of Social Work as a great deal of pressure is felt at the front end with AMHPs and home treatment team staff feeling the brunt of the pressure of bed shortages.

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  • No doubt same people will be on Task Force saying same things. This is a great chance to get new people with fresh ideas.

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