Two years into the Five Year Forward View has progress been made?

Two years into the Five Year Forward View, one of England's most senior mental health nurses assesses progress made

England’s most senior mental health nurse has given an upbeat assessment of NHS care, two years into the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health.

Speaking at the Mental Health Network annual conference in London on 15 March, NHS England mental health director Claire Murdoch acknowledged that staff are working under pressure in difficult circumstances.

NHS England mental health director
Claire Murdoch. Picture: David Gee

But she said mental healthcare has never had such a high profile in government policy.

'Time has come'

‘Mental health’s time has come,’ she said. ‘But it is unfortunate it's come at a time of such austerity and recession.’

Ms Murdoch, who is also chief executive of the Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust, called on staff to celebrate the achievements while recognising the shortfalls in services.

‘We have to use this time to the maximum. We have to expose where things are not good enough, but please, can we celebrate and shine a light on the things we are most proud of?' she said.

Ms Murdoch said that progress has been made in relation to the public’s understanding of mental health problems and the reduction in stigma, but suggested there was a danger that people with the most severe problems may not be getting the attention they deserve.

Mainstreaming the language of mental health

‘I am trying to bring back into play the term “mental illness”. I think we have seen the UK swing to mental health and mental well-being. We are trying to mainstream that language, but I worry we are doing a disservice to those with serious mental illness who need access to excellent evidence-based care.’

Ms Murdoch spoke of the extra funding going into child and adolescent mental health services, with an additional 150 beds being introduced by the end of this month.

She said the beds were needed to prevent so many out-of-area admissions – which often happen after long delays, and leave children far from their friends and family members.

‘Ideally, I'd like to be closing beds. Our plan for children and young people is to prevent admission: for every bed we fund we could be seeing 80 children in the community,’ she said.

Ms Murdoch said the extra funding would mean an additional 70,000 children out of the more than 200,000 will get the care they need and benefit from treatment.

‘It’s like saying one in three children with diabetes will get care,’ she said.

'Stunning reductions' and successes

Successes Ms Murdoch mentioned included increases in provision of perinatal mental health services, with four new mother and baby units opening this year.

And Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) services are now seeing almost one million people each year, with ‘stunning reductions’ in attendances at GP surgeries for people with long-term conditions.

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