David Cameron 180Six leading mental health organisations have published a joint plan for what the government should do in the first 100 days of the new Parliament to improve the lives of people with mental ill health.

‘Improving England’s Mental Health: The First 100 Days and Beyond’, has been produced jointly by Centre for Mental Health, the Mental Health Foundation, Mental Health Network, Mind, Rethink Mental Illness and the Royal College of Psychiatrists. It sets out a number of practical actions the organisations believe the new government should take to ensure mental and physical health are valued equally.

The report notes that mental health services remain massively underfunded, meaning that far too many people are not able to access the help and support they need. Indeed, during the last Parliament, funding for mental health services were cut, in real terms, by 8.25% – almost £600 million. 

This is despite demand increasing for mental health services in the past 5 years – referrals to community mental health teams went up by nearly 20% in that time. Yet just 25% of adults with depression and anxiety get any treatment and only 65% of people with psychosis are thought to be getting support. Also, 75% of children and young people experiencing a mental health problem do not currently access treatment.

The 100 day plan sets out five priority areas for action: 

Ensure fair funding for mental health – a commitment in the July emergency budget, and the Comprehensive Spending Review later in the year, to increase levels of investment in mental health services in real terms, over the lifetime of the Parliament. The government should also restate the commitment made in March’s budget to increase investment in mental health services for children and new mothers by £1.25 billion over the Parliament

Give children a good start in life – commit to take forward the recommendations of the recently published Children and Young People Mental Health Taskforce report, Future in Mind

Improve physical health care for people with mental health problems – develop tailored public health programmes for people with mental health problems, with a particular focus on Public Health England’s priorities of obesity, smoking, and harmful drinking

Improve the lives of people with mental health problems – commit to extending Time to Change funding over the five years of this Parliament. Put in place better employment support nationwide for people who are out of work and seeking employment, plus urgently review the effectiveness of the use of benefit conditions and sanctions among people with mental health problems

Enable better access to mental health services – commit to consult on proposals to introduce new national waiting time guarantees for mental health services in the first year of the Parliament.

In a joint statement, the six leaders of the organisations: Stephen Dalton, chief executive, Mental Health Network; Sean Duggan, chief executive, Centre for Mental Health; Jenny Edwards CBE, chief executive, Mental Health Foundation; Paul Farmer, chief executive, Mind; Professor Sir Simon Wessely, president, Royal College of Psychiatrists and Mark Winstanley, chief executive, Rethink Mental Illness, said: 

“The Queen’s speech this week set out the Government’s intention to improve access to mental health services over the next five years. This is very much welcome. These first 100 days represent a valuable opportunity for the Government to meaningfully demonstrate its commitment to improving the lives of people with mental health problems. Our plan sets out a range of actions needed to make that happen, of which increased investment will be vital. The Chancellor, George Osborne, set out in the March budget a commitment to increase funding for mental health services for children and new mothers by £1.25 billion over the Parliament. The upcoming emergency budget is a golden opportunity for this Government to demonstrate its commitment by re-pledging that much needed investment in mental health services.”