- Increase funding for mental health by at least £2.3bn a year in real terms by 2023/24.
- Provide a single point of access through NHS 111 to timely, age-appropriate mental health crisis care for everyone.
- Continue investment in perinatal mental health care for mothers and their partners who need specialist support during and following pregnancy.
- Expand services and work with schools and colleges so that an additional 345,000 children and young people aged 0-25 will be able to access support.
- Roll out new and established services in the community and hospitals, including talking therapies and liaison teams, to provide the right level of care for hundreds of thousands more adults when they need it.
It’s been about 2 months since the government announced their new strategy for the next ten years of the NHS, so now that the dust has settled, it’s a chance to look into some of the finer details of this plan and their potential impact. It’s clear that some change is needed within the social work and care sector, so these proposed plans could be signs of progress and better things to come; but what does it mean for mental health professionals? Will they be facing more red tape? We recognise that the current state of play in social work and care is flawed – too often we hear about processes delayed because of bureaucracy or lack of appropriate resources. Therefore, the fact that the government is understanding this as well and looking to make changes in the sector, fills us with a tentative amount of hope. We need to approach change with a collaborative nature, as only by working together will we get to a healthier state of social work and care.
Hence, it’s important to understand what exactly the government are proposing with this 10-Year Plan for the NHS. We need to know if it will make it easier for services, practitioners and professionals to build good practice as a partnership. Will it allow vulnerable people access to essential services sooner? Will those facing mental health struggles have the necessary support, so that as a country we can lower the suicide rates? With suicide still the biggest killer of men under 45 and 1 in 8 five to nineteen year olds reporting at least 1 mental health disorder, it’s clear that mental health needs to be high up on the agenda for the NHS over the next 10 years.
There’s a “historic commitment of an extra £20.5 billion a year from taxpayers” set aside for this 10-year strategy, and mental health services are set to receive an increase in funding of at least £2.3bn. But is just announcing extra money enough? Should the funding all materialise, it will facilitate change across the board for so many people, by making resources and support much more readily available. As a result, vulnerable service users will receive help earlier in the process and as a society we can start to tackle mental health on a larger scale. On the other hand, funding doesn’t necessarily mean effectiveness. The most important part when working with mental health issues is understanding the ways in which different people can view the world, the variety in treatments that are needed and the requirement for adaptability across the safeguarding profession. Therefore, it is vital that as the NHS develops over the next 10 years, all staff and extended partners are able to receive high-quality training.
An immediate element of the 10-Year Plan that makes us positive is the notion that this is being developed by staff, families, professionals, partners and the public – thereby giving a more targeted approach to the issues that really matter. With this in mind, the powers that be should receive front-line perspectives about the need for more insightful and accessible training in mental health. After all, practitioners know what service users need, and equally what they are not equipped to provide. There’s a commitment to expanding the level of involvement with schools and colleges in order to work together when protecting children and young people, which has to be a positive step forward. Teachers can be allies for social workers when supporting youth mental health, so it’s beneficial that systems are being developed to make mental health services more inclusive.
The NHS are committing to expanding the services across mental health, tackling issues such as eating disorders, transition into adulthood, learning disabilities, other health services and more. By publicly showcasing an interest in all these areas, the NHS (and by association the government) are acknowledging both that mental health is in crisis at the moment, and that change is needed. They have the ability to make active change in our sector, so it’s great that mental health is being given the necessary consideration by them. We hold out hope that they won’t just talk the talk, and we’ll still be championing a modernisation to mental health services: forcing them to walk the walk.
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