The NHS can’t achieve the mental health revolution by itself: developing the long term plan for mental health

The NHS is working on a plan setting out our ambitions for improvement over the next decade, and how we will meet them over the five years of the recently announced funding settlement. Over the last few weeks, initial conversations have been taking place internally and externally to establish the scope of the plan, and to bring together working groups to develop policy proposals over the next few months.

We have asked Claire Murdoch, NHS England’s national mental health director leader of the working group looking at mental health for the NHS Long Term Plan to share her thoughts about her vision for the next ten years on the NHS:

As someone who has spent the entirety of my working life with a strong professional and personal commitment to put mental health at the centre of our health care system, I was really pleased to hear the Prime Minister announcing in June that mental health should be a top priority for the NHS Long Term Plan. I have been working closely with NHS England Chief Executive Simon Stevens – a strong advocate for mental health – and colleagues across the country to develop new proposals that are innovative and ambitious.

For too long, too many people with mental health needs have struggled to get the support they need. One in four of us will experience a mental health problem in our lifetime and the estimated cost of mental ill health to the economy, the NHS and society is £105 billion a year.

Over the past few years, NHS England has started to address this demand by implementing the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health. We are now halfway through this programme, and I am proud of the results we have achieved:

  • The first ever waiting times standards for mental health treatments have been introduced.
  • We are on track to achieve our commitment to see 70,000 more children and young people by 2020/21. Eating disorders services that provide young girls and boys in every part of the country with the care they need have been established.
  • In 2017/18, over 7,000 additional new mothers with mental health difficulties received specialist perinatal care (as of March 2018). By April 2019, perinatal mental health community services will be established in every part of the country.
  • By 2020/21, there will be increased access to psychological therapies so at least 600,000 more people with common mental health conditions access services each year, in good time, and recover from their condition. In May 2018, the recovery rate for these services was the highest ever recorded.

We know we still have a long way to go to transform mental health care in England. Our strategy post-2021 should seek to deliver world class mental health care, with comparable levels of investment, access, quality of care and outcomes in physical and mental health.

I see the long-term plan as an opportunity to ensure that more people can have access to high quality evidence based treatment and are enabled to lead fulfilling lives.  In the next decade I believe we can achieve the NHS vision of a ‘whole person’ approach to care.

But the NHS can’t achieve the mental health revolution by itself. We need the support of the Government, local authorities, social care, schools and charities. The long-term plan is an opportunity to come together and make sure we match political ambitions with concrete proposals to keep improving mental health care in the country.

This summer, NHS England has consulted a wide group of stakeholders, including patient networks and minority groups, to ensure the views of the mental health sector and service users are represented in our plan. We have tried to engage with as many people and organisations as possible. I have been impressed by the mobilisation of the sector and the quality of the recommendations we have received so far. Throughout the preparation of the long-term plan, we will keep engaging with patients, providers and stakeholders, to refine our priorities for mental health and develop proposals that are relevant, achievable and ambitious.

It’s not too late to have your say: you can still submit feedback via the online feedback form until 30 September.

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.