In this latest Guest Blog, Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind and independent Chairman of the Mental Health Taskforce explains why the launch of a five year plan is so crucial.
"As the Taskforce publishes its final report – The Five Year Forward View for Mental Health – it’s remarkable to think how far we have come over the last few months.
I am incredibly proud of the work that has gone into it and the sheer scale of the coproduction, from the 20,000 plus people who responded to the consultation, to working so closely with the various parts of the NHS and other bodies and agencies that will be instrumental in delivering on the recommendations we set out.
What we have produced has the potential to transform the services and the support that people receive for their mental health.
It sets out exactly what needs to happen to make sure people get access to the treatment and support they need, when they need it. We make recommendations for the NHS to achieve the ambition of ‘parity of esteem’ between mental and physical health for children and young people, adults and older people. This includes prevention, early intervention, access to crisis care and better integration of mental and physical health care.
We also make a set of key recommendations that go beyond the NHS.
Many people we spoke to told us that, as well as access to good quality mental health services, their main ambition was to have a decent place to live, a job and good quality relationships in their local communities. Improving life chances in this way requires a cross-government approach and the Taskforce has not shied away from setting out what needs to change.
Throughout our work we have placed particular emphasis on tackling inequalities. Mental ill health disproportionately affects the poor, the unemployed and the excluded. For too many people, especially people from Black and Minority Ethnic communities, their first experience of mental health services comes when they are sectioned, often with police involvement, and with longer stays in hospital.
The report, therefore, includes an important set of recommendations to tackle inequalities at both a local and a national level.
Mental health problems affect nine out of ten prisoners in England and Wales, yet access to mental health support in prison remains patchy, with long delays to access urgent care outside of prison. Delayed discharge are common for people are detained in secure hospitals, often due to lack of appropriate support in the community, causing further blockages in the system and having a detrimental impact on people’s recovery.
The Taskforces calls for a much more joined up approach to the commissioning and provision of mental health care in the criminal justice system. NHS England, the Department of Health and the Ministry of Justice should start joint work to develop pathways across the criminal justice system, with commissioning of services based on a robust understanding of the mental health needs of the local population. Liaison and diversion schemes should be expanded nationally, and there needs to be increased support for people in prison with mental health problems, and/or drug or alcohol problems. The Taskforce recognises that the right workforce with the right skills is the single most important component of good care, and recommends that frontline staff in the criminal justice system should have basic skills to provide mental health care.
Such transformational change can’t be achieved without the right resources. Mental health services have been neglected for decades and the signs of the strain are everywhere. The NHS and other bodies need significant investment if we are to bring services and support up to standard and meet growing demand.
The launch of the report is just the beginning of a long journey. In and of itself, a report holds no power – the real work starts with implementation, and everyone has a part to play in making sure our plan is delivered. We are relying on national leadership and local delivery to get the job done.
I want to take this opportunity to thank all the Taskforce members, and the thousands of people who contributed to and helped co-produce this report. It is a landmark moment for mental health and a real opportunity to finally deliver the kind of services and support that people with mental health problems need and deserve."