The government has published its response to the NHS Mental Health Taskforce and accepted its report in full, which put forward recommendations for reforming mental health services.

In the introduction to the government’s response to The Five Year Forward View for Mental Health, it said: “The Government is pleased to be able to accept the Taskforce report in full. These recommendations establish the basis for an ambitious programme for NHS mental health services as described in NHS England’s Implementing the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health. The Department of Health has already supported the delivery of this plan with additional investment of £1 billion a year by 2020/21 to improve mental health services. The Government will hold NHS England to account for the effective and efficient spending of that extra funding and the delivery of the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health.”

The Five Year Forward View for Mental Health, published in February 2016, made 58 recommendations to improve mental health services. This included: resourcing and implementing Future in Mind, building on 2015/16 Local Transformation Plans and going further to drive system-wide transformation of the local offer to children and young people so that measurable improvements in their mental health are secured within the next four years; increasing support for people with mental illness to find or stay in work and measures to improve attitudes towards mental health in the community.

The report added: “These reforms will drive serious and sustained improvement in access to, perception of, and delivery of mental health services in this country. We want mental health services that are available 24/7 to people who need it, that are dedicated to helping people live well and be able to focus on managing their own mental health, in their homes and communities. The ambition is to deliver improvements in mental health that will lead to an additional one million people receiving high-quality care by 2020/21.”

The publication of the response comes on the same day that Prime Minister Theresa May outlined plans to reform mental health care.

Paul Farmer, chief executive of mental health charity Mind and independent chair of the NHS’s mental health taskforce, welcomed the government’s response to the report, noting that in some cases their commitments go beyond what the taskforce recommended. 

“The key now is in the delivery,” he said. “The reality today is that many people with mental health problems just aren’t getting the service and support they desperately need. We know that things won’t change overnight but we do need to see urgent progress and a sustained commitment to making mental health a priority across all government departments if we are to address the damaging impact of decades of neglect and underinvestment. We will be keeping a close eye on the delivery of the Five Year Forward View and holding government to account on the promises made today.”

Jacqui Dyer, vice-chair of the NHS’s mental health taskforce, added that the government’s response “provides a great foundation from which to improve mental health policy across government.”

But Dyer added a note of caution for the government: “We need to be careful not to fall into the trap of focusing on a one-size-fits-all approach to mental health. It’s good to see specific groups, such as children and young people, identified as needing special attention but there are many people with mental health problems who are subject to huge inequalities when it comes to accessing services and support. People from BAME [Black, Asian and minority ethnic] and LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] groups, for example, get a particularly raw deal and the risk is that, by failing to tailor the approach to address these historical inequalities, some groups remain invisible and will continue to not to able to access the right support at the right time. 

“The Five Year Forward View is the opportunity to tackle these important issues, but government needs to make a concerted effort to embed a focus on addressing inequalities in each and every recommendation it has accepted. 

The government has accepted our call for a new equalities champion for mental health to drive the change needed and we look forward to hearing more detail on this soon.”