People with mental health difficulties, ranging from severe mental illnesses such as bipolar and schizophrenia, to those with more common mental health issues, including anxiety and depression, will benefit from expanded mental health services backed by £500 million as part of the UK government’s Mental Health Recovery Action Plan.
The plan, published this week, aims to respond to the impact of the pandemic on the mental health of the public, specifically targeting groups which have been most impacted including those with severe mental illness, young people, and frontline staff.
Under the plan NHS talking therapies (IAPT services) which offer confidential treatment of conditions such as anxiety, depression and PTSD will expand, supporting 1.6 million people to access services in 2021/22, backed by an additional £38 million.
Additional therapists will also be trained to support those with more complex mental health needs as a result of the pandemic.
People living with severe mental illness will also benefit from enhanced mental services in the community, backed by £58 million for better, joined up support between primary and secondary care, including specialist mental health staff embedded in primary care. The funding will accelerate expansion and transformation of community mental health services, enabling people with severe mental illnesses to access psychological therapies, improved physical health care, employment support, personalised and trauma-informed care, medicines management and support for self-harm.
This is part of the wider government agenda to build back better from the pandemic and ensure everyone is able to access the support they need.
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said:
One-off initiatives will receive funding to tackle the impact of COVID-19 on mental health and learning disability and autism services and to support groups who have disproportionately been affected by the pandemic.
Funding will also be used to help level up mental health and wellbeing across the country in the most deprived local authority areas in England, supporting prevention activities like debt advice, carers support, outreach to people facing loneliness and isolation, youth projects and community groups.
Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Nadine Dorries said
One-off, new initiatives to support mental health recovery from the pandemic include:
- £15 million to help level up mental health and wellbeing across the country through funding initiatives to promote positive mental health in the most deprived local authority areas in England – eligible local authorities will receive around £500,000 each to fund prevention activities like debt advice, carers support, outreach to people facing loneliness and isolation, youth projects and community groups for those most affected by Covid-19 including minority ethnic communities
- £13 million to ensure young adults aged 18 to 25, including university students, are supported with tailored mental health services, helping bridge the gap between children’s and adult services – this funding will ensure services are better able to meet the needs of this group as a result of the pandemic, reducing the likelihood of needing hospital treatment in the future
- £14 million to support the physical health of people living with severe mental illness, through schemes encouraging them to come forward for physical health checks to help spot the signs of conditions like diabetes and heart disease, and get their Covid-19 vaccine
- £17 million to support recovery of the dementia diagnosis rate and tackle the backlog of appointments as a result of the pandemic
- £2.5 million to pilot new approaches to support children who have experienced complex trauma.
- £2.5 million to boost a pilot supporting offenders with significant mental health needs, to divert them away from custodial sentences, and help them to access the support they need through Mental Health Treatment Requirements
- £31 million to support learning disability and autism services, to address the diagnostic backlog as a result of the pandemic, and support intervention to prevent children and young people with learning disability, autism or both escalating into crisis
- £3 million to begin preparations for implementing the Mental Health Act Reform, increasing capacity in the workforce and laying the groundwork for broader reforms including testing ways to improve the quality of care and provide culturally appropriate advocacy
- £5 million to support suicide prevention through voluntary and community sector organisations
The Recovery Action Plan highlights further initiatives to place mental health at the centre of government policy, including through the development and testing of a ‘Mental Health Impact Assessment’ for all new policies, and continuation of the Ministerial group examining the impacts of the pandemic on mental health and wellbeing. This group has overseen a range of cross-government initiatives, such as the Wellbeing for Education Return scheme launched last September.
In addition, all government departments are committing to promote Public Health England’s Psychological First Aid training to their workers and volunteers to develop their skills and confidence in providing support to those affected by COVID-19. These free online training modules help people develop their skills and confidence in providing key psychological support on issues such as job worries, bereavement or isolation.
NHS England’s National Mental Health Director, Claire Murdoch said:
Mental health services have remained open during the pandemic, often adapting to provide support via digital services. The Recovery Action Plan commits to capitalise on this transformation of services, including a £30 million commitment from NHSX to support mental health Trusts to embed digital and remote working into service delivery.
To support NHS mental health services in the longer term, £111 million will be invested to train the workforce of the future, which will ensure staff are in place to support two million more people access NHS mental health care and treatment by 2023/24.
The Government say support for frontline workers also remains a key priority, and an additional £10 million will be invested to support the mental health of the workforce in the wake of the pandemic. This is on top of support put in place by NHS England, including a dedicated confidential staff support line operated by the Samaritans, and a £15 million investment to strengthen mental health support for NHS staff during the second wave.
The Recovery Action Plan is published alongside the National Suicide Prevention Strategy Progress Report and associated cross-government workplan, which sets out data and trends on suicide and self-harm, progress against existing commitments, and crucially, the steps government says it has and will be taking to reduce suicide and self-harm as far as possible.