NHS sets out five-year delivery plan for improved mental health services

Author: Caroline White
NHS sets out five-year delivery plan for improved mental health services

The NHS has set out* how it intends to deliver its ambitions for improving mental health services over the next five years as part of the Long Term Plan.

Implementation will be accompanied by a ring-fenced local investment fund worth at least £2.3 billion a year by 2023/24 to 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, and this included dedicated provision for groups with specific needs, such as adults with eating disorders or personality disorder.

An additional 345,000 children and young people will be able to 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.

The shift towards more integrated, population-level health systems aims to support more localised and personalised responses to health inequalities across the range of prevention and treatment.

"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.

“While commitments are important, we now need to focus on making the transformation in mental health services a reality. We are aware that there are numerous challenges and competing pressures faced by staff in the NHS and our partners,” write the three joint chairs of the Mental Health Long Term Plan Steering Group.

These are Claire Murdoch, national mental health director and senior responsible officer, NHS England and NHS Improvement; Paul Farmer, chief executive of mental health charity Mind; and Sheena Cumiskey, chief executive of Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.

Sean Duggan, chief executive of the Mental Health Network, welcomed the delivery plan.

"The ambitious vision of the NHS Long Term Plan provides a further step change for mental health services, with more people able to access treatment and more specialised services. The Implementation Plan now gives us a clear route to living that vision,” he said.

He singled out the roll-out of a Patient and Carer Race Equality Framework and clarity on opportunities for voluntary, community and social enterprises to lead in the delivery and implementation of services as particular highlights. But he had some concerns about timescales and workforce.

"The timescales are tight for planning in the first year and we must be careful, too, about being too prescriptive. Ultimately, we believe the best approach is to empower local leaders to use their knowledge to drive these improvements and do what works best in their areas.

"Workforce remains a worry - it is good news that local areas will be more involved in developing their workforce but, with mental health services suffering from particularly high vacancy rates, we will need to see support from the centre.”

Mental health services would “not be able to succeed in a vacuum,” he pointed out. Services must work in partnership with other parts of the system, with mental health being threaded throughout Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships and Integrated Care System plans, he said.

"Importantly, investment is needed in the wider health and care system - including in social care, capital, public health and supported housing - if the vision of the Long Term Plan is to be achieved." 

*NHS Mental Health Implementation Plan 2019/20 – 2023/24. NHS England, July 2019