Editor Dan Parton (10/7/12) believes the mental health may no longer be the 'ugly sister' of care services:
For more years than anyone cares to remember, mental health hasbeen referred to as a 'Cinderella' service. So much so that it has become a cliché. But maybe, just maybe, things are beginning tochange and mental health will be put on a par with physical healthand outcomes for service users will improve.
Last week, the Government published its draft mandate to the NHSCommissioning Board, which sets out the goals and outcomes the NHSmust deliver on, including putting mental health on a par withphysical health. This is long overdue. As I have said previously inthis column, given that mental health issues affect one in four ofus over our lifetimes and is said to cost the economy £100 billionper year, you might think it would already have equal status withphysical concerns.
Not only this, but an implementation framework for the mentalhealth strategy is also apparently on its way - only about 18months after it was launched. Better late than never, Isuppose.
Sarcasm aside, both are positive steps and make me think thatperhaps - finally - progress will be made in improving theprovision of mental health services. However, my optimism istempered by the knowledge that we have been here before. There havebeen fine words from the Government - whichever colour happens tobe in power - and promises of strategies that will ensure highquality services for all and that everything will be rosy… and thenlittle happens on the ground and services trundle along much asthey have done before. Then a few years later another strategycomes along and the cycle starts again.
So, to avoid being stuck in some sort of Groundhog Day scenario,what needs to happen now is that the mandate and whatever iscontained in the mental health strategy implementation frameworkmust be turned into reality. That has to be driven by centralGovernment and at a more local level - with people specificallytasked with making change happen. The agenda cannot be allowed todrift like it has done since the mental health strategy waslaunched back in February 2011. To give this a better chance ofhappening, there also needs to be some financial commitment fromthe Government. While it has recently committed new money to thingslike the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT)programme and children and young people's services, it needs to gofurther.
While in the current financial climate - another cliché - this maybe difficult, the argument is that can the Government afford not toinvest in services, given how much it is said to cost?Without it,more good intentions are likely to founder and, once again, littlewill change and mental health will retain its Cinderellastatus.