A new framework to deliver on the mental health commitments in the NHS Long Term Plan

Last month NHS England published detailed spending plans for mental health services over the next five years to ensure that local areas deliver on the commitments set out in the Long Term Plan. Claire Murdoch, National NHS Director for Mental Health explains how these goals will be achieved.

In my 35 years working in the NHS, I have never seen such a strong commitment to improve mental health in England. From the top of the government all the way to front line services, there has been an impressive momentum to bring change to the way we care for people with mental health issues. The sector has spoken clearly: ‘we need actions, not words’.

We have heard the voice of our patients and made their needs our priorities. We have listened to our stakeholders and learned from the experience of the voluntary sector, local authorities, universities and so many others. We are proud to have a clear plan to deliver on our Long Term Plan commitments for mental health at the local level.

With the new Mental Health Implementation Plan, a ringfenced local investment fund worth at least £2.3 billion a year in real terms by 2023/24 will ensure that the NHS provides high quality, evidence-based mental health services to an additional two million people.

By 2023/24, 370,000 adults and older adults with severe mental illnesses will have greater choice and control over their care – including dedicated provision for groups with specific needs, such as adults with eating disorders or a ‘personality disorder’ diagnosis.

An additional 345,000 children and young people will access support via NHS-funded mental health services and school- or college-based Mental Health Support Teams. The current, targeted suicide prevention programme will be rolled out to every local area, and all systems will provide suicide bereavement services for families and staff.

Importantly, the shift towards more integrated, population-level health systems will support more localised and personalised responses to health inequalities across the prevention and treatment spectrum.

We heard from stakeholders that a continued focus on high quality care in the community is the right thing to do for patients, and this plan also includes an important emphasis on ensuring that inpatient care, when required, is world class.

The growing role of NHS-led provider collaboratives in delivering whole pathways of care for populations have already started to show us that short and purposeful stays, close to home linked with quality community services can deliver improved patient care.

We are aware that these are very ambitious targets, and that there are still numerous challenges and competing pressures faced by staff in the NHS and our partners. The Mental Health Implementation Plan sets out information on funding, transformation activities and indicative workforce numbers, so that local partners and providers have clear targets to work towards. It also includes information on what NHS England and NHS Improvement will do to support local areas in improving access to high quality mental health care.

To achieve our collective goals, it is exceptionally important that we all work together; this document has been developed jointly with people with experience of the mental health care system to make sure that it is both useful operationally and an empowering tool for local systems.

Claire Murdoch

Claire Murdoch is NHS England’s National Mental Health Director.

She has been a registered mental health nurse for 34 years, and joined NHS England in April 2016.

She is also Chief Executive of Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust. With a wealth of clinical and leadership experience she is leading delivery of the national mental health programme.