Prime Minister David Cameron has said he remains "committed" to putting mental healthcare on a par with physical care after NHS England's publication of The Five Year Forward View for Mental Health outlined "significant ongoing failings" in the sector.
The report, produced by the independent Mental Health Taskforce, suggested that the mental health sector has suffered years of neglect and a lack of funding, with only 15% of people who need psychological therapy in England receiving access to care.
It also found suicide rates in England rising after years of decline and that the average waiting time for a child seeking a routine appointment with a mental health practitioner stood at 21 weeks in 2013-14, up from 15 weeks the year before.
Jenny Edwards CBE, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation, has called the publication by NHS England "a pivotal moment in the fight for a mentally healthier nation".
"The Mental Health Foundation has been calling for a greater focus on prevention and we are delighted that this is clearly reflected in the report," she said. "Prevention was the key priority to come out of the public engagement consultation that feed into the report. We specifically welcome the creation of a Prevention Concordat to drive forward change, and the increased emphasis on strategic leadership by people with lived experience of mental health problems.
"We unequivocally endorse the Taskforce report when it states that 'prevention matters – it’s the only way that change can be achieved'. Beyond the economic cost of £105 billion a year, poor mental health is destroying lives. The report acknowledges that we need to do far more to ensure good mental health for all and this means stepping in at the first opportunity. At present, too little is done to prevent mental ill health both with the population at large and with at risk groups. Providing the right range of support, including prevention, has enabled us to become a physically healthier nation. This must now be replicated in mental health. The report, if acted on, provides a once in a generation opportunity to achieve this."
The report sets out 58 recommendations to improve services and says the changes will require £1bn a year in additional investment by 2020-21. It says the funding should be on top of an existing government commitment to spend an extra £280m annually in children’s mental health provision. The report claims the funding will see:
• 600,000 more people a year accessing talking therapies
• 280,000 more people with severe mental health problems having their physical health needs met each year
• 70,000 more children a year receiving high-quality mental health care
• 30,000 more women each year getting perinatal mental health care
• 29,000 more people with mental health conditions accessing employment support
• The creation of a national Prevention Concordat programme that will enable all Health and Wellbeing Boards to support local needs and produce mental health Prevention Plans.
• The appointment of an equalities champion to tackle mental health inequalities across the health system and through cross-government action
• The prioritisation of mental health support for people with long term physical health conditions
• The publication of a 10 year strategy for mental health research by 2017 and to increase funding
• The championing of digital innovations to improve access and choice to mental health support
• An emphasis on the mental health and wellbeing of staff across the NHS and all those working with people with mental health problems.
More transparency on spending
Responding to the report, NHS England committed to investing the extra £1bn a year by April 2020 and promised more transparency on mental health spending.
President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists Professor Sir Simon Wessely said: "The College welcomes the guarantee of funding to enable 600,000 more people access psychological therapies. This, combined with the promised expenditure to double the reach of Individual Placement and Support for people with severe mental illness, could support 29,000 people to find and stay in work by 2020.
"Strategies don’t deliver themselves though, people do. As doctors who specialise in mental health, psychiatrists in England are already playing a key role in the diagnosis and treatment of patients with serious mental health conditions. These frontline mental health professionals also deserve the support the strategy promises. We welcome the focus on improving the vital underpinnings needed for delivering improved mental health services, which are often invisible or simply taken for granted: better mental health data and payment systems, more investment in research, and a well-supported workforce able to provide high-quality, accessible care."
Read the report in full here