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Overhaul of mental health care promised by PM Theresa May

A package of reforms to tackle 'hidden injustice’ and stigma of mental illness has been unveiled by PM Theresa May.
Mental health

A package of reforms to tackle hidden injustice and the stigma of mental illness has been unveiled by prime minister Theresa May.

The plans include extra training for schools and a review of workplace practices.

Investment of 15 million to provide alternatives to hospital visits and funding of 67.7 million for online 'digital therapy is included in promised financial aid.

Mental health experts and health organisations have said more funding is needed to improve services.

New measures

Ms May used her speech to the Charity Commission in London on Monday to announce:

  • Mental health first aid training for schools.
  • New trials to strengthen links between schools and local NHS mental health staff.
  • A major review of children and adolescent mental health

A package of reforms to tackle ‘hidden injustice’ and the stigma of mental illness has been unveiled by prime minister Theresa May.


Tackling mental health in schools is one of the aims outlined by Ms May. Photo: iStock

The plans include extra training for schools and a review of workplace practices.

Investment of £15 million to provide alternatives to hospital visits and funding of £67.7 million for online 'digital therapy’ is included in promised financial aid.

Mental health experts and health organisations have said more funding is needed to improve services.

New measures

Ms May used her speech to the Charity Commission in London on Monday to announce:

  • Mental health first aid training for schools.
  • New trials to strengthen links between schools and local NHS mental health staff.
  • A major review of children and adolescent mental health services, led by the Care Quality Commission.
  • A review of the 'health debt form', for which patients can be charged up to £300 by GPs for documentation to prove they have mental health issues.
  • By 2021, no child will be sent away from their local area to receive treatment for mental health issues.
  • A review of workplace support for those with mental ill health.

Ms May said: ‘This is a historic opportunity to right a wrong, and give people deserving of compassion and support the attention and treatment they deserve.

‘For too long mental illness has been something of a hidden injustice in our country, shrouded in a completely unacceptable stigma and dangerously disregarded as a secondary issue to physical health.’

'Significant' investment needed

RCN general secretary Janet Davies said the measures needed significant investment in nurses who work with children to succeed.

She said: ‘If the government wants to improve child mental health, there needs to be significant investment in school nurses and health visitors.

‘Since 2010, the number of school nurses has dropped by 10% and over 4,000 new health visitor roles have been cut.

'In addition, the recent reports of our NHS facing a humanitarian crisis is a result of too much demand and of a social care system that is not integrated with the NHS - both of which are crippled by under-staffing and under-resourcing.

‘The government must act now to set out a long term workforce plan, which will attract more people into nursing and ensure patients are getting the mental and physical health care they need and deserve.’

Parity to improve public health

Mental Health Network chief executive Sean Duggan said it was clear that greater parity for mental health alongside physical care would improve public health.

Mr Duggan said: 'Mental health is worsening among children and there is too much variation in the care available to people of all ages.

'Increasing the public’s own awareness and acceptance of mental health is also an important step in helping people to seek help at the earliest time.

'Mental health services still need the government’s support to speed-up promised funding, much of which is delayed, but we are very pleased that mental health is being accepted as a major priority going forward.'

The economic and social cost of mental illness is around £105 billion and one in four people has a common mental disorder at any time, according to government figures.

The focus on schools is driven by figures showing over half of mental health problems start by the age of 14 and 75% by 18.

Workplace practice review 

Under the plans, mental health training for teachers and staff will be rolled out to a third of secondary schools in England next year, with the remaining two-thirds of secondary schools offered the support in the following two years.

Mental health campaigner Lord Stevenson of Coddenham and the charity Mind's chief executive Paul Farmer will lead a review of workplace practices.
 
The government will consult employers, charities and legal experts to gather evidence about discrimination protections for workers with mental health issues.
 
There is currently protection when problems persists for a year or more and are classed as a disability, but for many common disorders, such as depression, the average length of illness can be much shorter.


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