Department of Health and Social Care
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Making mental health matter more

Deputy Prime Minister sets out mental health action plan

Yesterday the Government has set out that more needs to be done to help the one in four people who will suffer from a mental health problem at some point in their life.

Although there have been improvements in recent years, there is still a long way to go to make mental health as important as physical health and drive out unacceptable practices that still exist, such as long waiting times, people being transferred long distances to get a bed, face-down restraint being used too often and children being cared for on adult wards and facing a cliff-edge of support when they turn 18. People with severe mental illness also face shorter life expectancy – this shows that more needs to be done to help those with mental health problems stay physically healthy as well.

Yesterday the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg addressed a conference which brought together mental health experts, charities and users of mental health services to talk about how mental health can be improved in this country and bring it out of the shadows.

Speaking at the conference, the Deputy Prime Minister said:

All too often, attitudes to mental health are stuck in the dark ages; full of stigma and stereotypes. It’s time for us to bring mental health out of the shadows and to give people with mental health conditions the support they need and deserve.

Today we’re calling for action – across the NHS, the mental health sector and wider society – to champion change, to transform outdated attitudes and practices and to improve the lives of people with mental health problems.

We recognise that we’ve got a mountain to climb. But we’re working hard to ensure that the needs of those with mental health problems are considered not just in the NHS, but also across our public sector: with better support in education, employment, the justice sector, housing and elsewhere.

Ultimately, it’s going to take all of us working together to achieve the change in attitudes to mental health that we need, to create an environment together where it’s okay to talk about mental health.

The document Closing the Gap: Priorities for Essential Change in Mental Health outlines 25 areas for health and care services to take action which will make a difference to the lives of people with mental health conditions. These changes will mean that the system is fairer for people with mental health problems. The document aims to encourage the NHS to take mental health as seriously and treat it as importantly as physical health.

A major step forward in this will be giving mental health patients more control over their care. From April, for the first time, patients needing treatment for a mental health problem will be able to choose where they get their care in the same way that someone needing a hip or knee replacement has had a right to choose which hospital to have their operation at since 2008. And the choice will not be limited to an NHS provider – patients will also be able to choose a voluntary or independent organisation providing NHS services when they go to see their GP to seek help.

Key measures include:

  • Patients will have a choice about where they get their mental health care – just as someone needing an operation can already choose their hospital or the consultant-led team that will care for them.

  • From next year, waiting time standards will begin to be introduced for mental health – giving mental health patients the same rights as someone who needs, for example, a hip replacement or treatment for cataracts.

  • The Friends and Family Test – already making a difference in the NHS – will be rolled out to mental health services for the first time so patients can give their own feedback on their care and mental health trusts will be able to take swift action if improvements are needed.

  • Talking therapies are already helping 600,000 people - this will be expanded so that 300,000 more people will get help.

  • Children with mental health problems will get more support – including an aim to roll talking therapies for children and young people out to the whole country by 2018 and better support for children moving from adolescent services into adult services.

  • £43 million will be invested in pilots on better housing for people with mental health problems or learning disabilities. Architects and builders will work with mental health experts and charities to bid for projects next year with the aim of new homes beginning to be built by 2017.

Mental health problems are common and 1 in 4 people experience stress, anxiety and depression at some point in their lives. The cost of mental illness is not just counted in the NHS – it also costs the economy over £105 billion every year. Depression and anxiety alone cost £16.4 billion through NHS treatment and lost earnings. Today, the research institute RAND Europe has published a report commissioned by the government with suggestions for better supporting people with mental health problems in getting back to work, including making sure that our health and employment services work more closely together. The Government is carefully considering the findings of this report and work is already underway to develop options for trials.

Care and Support Minister Norman Lamb said:

We are determined to eliminate the stigma around mental health and drive up standards of care and treatment in the NHS further.

People leaving child and adolescent mental health services still face a cliff-edge of support when they turn 18. If we want to build a fairer society, we cannot allow this to continue.

Mental health must have equal importance as physical health – giving patients who are using mental health services the same rights as other patients is a crucial part of this.

If we are to truly give better care to patients with mental illnesses we need to ensure they are listened to. The Friends and Family Test will give the NHS the chance to hear what is going well and what isn’t in mental health settings and to take action to ensure that services improve.

Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt said:

Much progress has been made – with mental health patients getting more community-based care and living in their own homes, but nothing less than true parity of esteem must be our goal.

We have to challenge the NHS to join up care – to treat the whole person, not just the mental health problem, and make every service as good as the best.

Note to editors

Closing the Gap: Priorities for Essential Change in Mental Health builds on the mental health strategy No Health Without Mental Health published in 2011.

How the Friends and Family Test is already improving care:

  • The Friends and Family Test is helping the NHS become safer - steps have been taken at Hillingdon to make sure patients with Parkinson’s’ Disease get their medication on time, by using a simple alarm clock to remind staff when medicine needs to be taken. It has also made its wards more peaceful and comfortable at night, after patients reported that they were being disturbed by too much light and noise

  • Lewisham and Greenwich Hospitals NHS Trust has improved communication with patients by making sure every day each nurse introduces themselves to the patients they will be responsible for, and has a discussion about what the patient can expect to happen during the day

  • Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust installed full-length mirrors in their bathrooms after a patient with a wheelchair told them the mirrors were too high and started delivering newspapers on the wards following feedback from patients who were too ill to go shopping

Choice will be offered to adult mental health patients from April 2014. However, in keeping with the Choice Framework, there will be times when choice is not offered. This includes, if the person needs emergency care or is either:

  • a prisoner

  • a serving member of the armed forces

  • detained under the Mental Health Act 1983

In the NHS Mandate, we’ve given NHS England the objective to put mental health on a par with physical health and to close the health gap between people with mental health problems and the population as a whole. It also states our commitment to introduce for the first time new standards on waiting times and access for mental health services. NHS England are currently researching access standards in mental health and national standards for waiting times for mental health covering both access to services and waiting times will be introduced in 2015.

For media enquiries only, please contact the Department of Health press office on 0207 210 5010. For non-media enquiries, please contact the Department of Health Public Enquiries Unit on 020 7210 4850.

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