NHS and local government chiefs believe that mental wellbeing is an increasingly important priority, but they struggle with a lack of shared understanding, finds a new report from the NHS Confederation.
Public mental health and well-being – the local perspective, which has a foreword from care services minister Paul Burstow and parliamentary under secretary of state for public health Anne Milton, is based on interviews and focus groups with 140 heads of primary care trusts, GP practices, local authorities, public health services and mental health trusts.
It was a collaboration between the National Mental Health Development Unit, the Association of Directors of Public Health, and the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and Senior Managers.
Eight out of 10 local leaders believed that improving mental wellbeing contributes to other social, health, community, and economic development goals, and that there is a good deal of scope to integrate mental wellbeing within existing services.
Although they are concerned about the impact of budget cuts on efforts to improve mental wellbeing, they also saw a period of financial restraint as an opportunity to prioritise it, because of the impact it could have supporting people back to work and reducing the burden on public sector services.
The report makes clear the strong evidence base for improving local environments, intervening in the early years where necessary, supporting parents, working with schools to help improve mental wellbeing and taking action to reduce health inequalities.
And it sets out the evidence base for improving mental wellbeing while providing case studies of what is already being done in many local areas across England.
With the health and social care system undergoing such fundamental change, it’s a good time to prioritise mental wellbeing, says the report. But getting it right will require strong local leadership and joint working and better data, as well as putting the evidence into practice.
It also means supporting the emerging leaders of new organisations and bodies, GP consortia and health and wellbeing boards to develop the appropriate partnerships, says the report.
Mental Health Network director, Steve Shrubb, commented: “The people who run health and social care—from the minister’s office to the GP surgery—have made it clear how important mental wellbeing is, to not just public health but a range of other policy goals such as employment, education and the environment.”
He added: “With the economy facing such uncertainty and the health and social care system facing such major change, there is a huge will and opportunity to push this agenda forward and improve wellbeing in local communities.”