Today, the report of the independent mental health taskforce, led by Paul Farmer of Mind, was launched. It contains a good summary of the crushing problems faced by people with mental health problems and those in the NHS who try to help us, together with a five year plan for mental health services; in response, there is a government commitment to spend ‘£1 billion a year by 2020/21’, though more on that below. Having experienced ongoing cuts to historically underfunded mental health services, it is no surprise to those of us who use or work in them that services are in a dreadfully poor state and that lives are being blighted and even lost as a result. Cuts have continued to be made to mental health services despite a commitment from government to ‘parity of esteem’ between mental and physical health services as CCGs to whom funding decisions are devolved continue to prioritise other areas of healthcare. None of this is news to us; we could have told government that for free without the need to set up yet another commission or review or taskforce. But at least these types of things quantify the scale of the problem: they reduce plausible deniability about the scale of the problem faced and the dreadful reality of the lives of those of us with mental health problems who are brutalised and/or neglected by services – or lack thereof.
Following the report’s launch, so far it seems that, amongst those of us who use or work in or have experience of mental health services, the skepticism is high that this will lead to action that will make a difference to our lives. And for good reason.
Only last month, prime minister David Cameron enjoyed favourable headlines across the mainstream media for promising ‘£1 billion of new money’ for mental health services. However, even before he had made that announcement, the Department of Health had confirmed that there was, in fact, no new money. Instead, it was simply a reannouncement of money that had already been announced but not yet spent – but it seemed only Channel 4 news picked that up, leaving the spin largely unchallenged. The fact the was no new money was later confirmed in a parlimentary answer. It seemed more of a political announcement than a commitment to improve our lives. Now the claim appears to be that there will not only be £1 billion of ‘new’ money but £1 billion of new money every year until 2020/21.
However, it is both hard to quantify that claim and to hold the government to account for its promises. In 2013, the government abolished the national survey on spending on mental health services, just at the point it showed the first drop in spending for the first time in a decade. NHS England has confirmed that there is to be no injection of cash into the NHS for the extra ‘£1 billion per year’ for mental health services; and NHS England has provided no breakdown whatsoever of where this ‘£1 billion per year’ will be spent, nor when, nor how. Both of these facts make it hard to hold government to account on its promises. On the face of it, £1 billion is simply be the amount mental health services would get of the additional £8 billion promised in the run-up to the election for the NHS if the proportion of spend were to be around 12% as it is currently.
But, whether or not the ‘£1 billion per year’ is new or recycled money, there has been an awful lot promised for that money; wherever it comes from, it’s going to have to stretch a very long way indeed, even given the limited aspirations of the taskforce report. The fundamental problem in mental health services is decades of underfunding followed by recent cuts. The key issue is money, and there is no new money.
Watch this space for clarification of the money side of the report and analysis of it.
For a quick overview, read these 3 pieces:
- Report of the independent mental health taskforce to the NHS in England
- Overview of the report, by Andy McNicholl, Community Care
- Overview of the money behind the report, by Andy McNicholl, Community Care
Scroll down for more links. Throughout the day, I’ll be uploading links to pieces I spot that analyse the report. Please let me know if there are othes to add.
The Five Year Forward View for Mental Health -A report from the independent Mental Health Taskforce to the NHS in England (15 February 2016)
- NHS England
- Five Year Forward View for Mental Health – Paul Farmer (video – 6 mins) (14 Feb 2016)
- Five Year Mental Health plan will be our legacy – Jacqui Dyer (15 Feb 2016)
- NHS commits to major transformation of mental health care with help for a million more people (15 Feb 2016)
Mental health organisations
- Bipolar UK – Mental health taskforce publishes new recommendations for mental healthcare (15 Feb 2016)
- British Psychological Society – Society welcomes new NHS commitment to mental health care (15 Feb 2016)
- Cavendish Square Group of providers of NHS mental health services in London – Mental Health Taskforce report makes clear why urgent investment is a priority (15 Feb 2016)
- Centre for Mental Health – Centre for Mental Health welcomes Taskforce report (15 Feb 2016)
- Mental Health Fountion- With a strong focus on prevention, the Mental Health Foundation commends “pivotal” Mental Health Taskforce Report (15 Feb 2016)
- About the Mental Health Taskforce
- This is the dawn of a new age for mental health care – Paul Farmer (15 Feb 2016)
- MQ: Transforming Mental Health – NHS taskforce provides blue-print for transforming mental health services (15 Feb 2016)
- Rethink Mental Illness
- Royal College of Psychiatrists
- At last, the taskforce speaks – Professor Sir Simon Wessely (15 Feb 2016)
- In response to the launch of today’s report ‘The Mental Health Five Year Forward View’ – Professor Sir Simon Wessely (15 Feb 2016)
- South London & Maudsley NHS Trust – NHS Mental Health Taskforce report launched (15 Feb 2016)
Announcements by other organisations
- Labour party – Ministers must keep their promises and deliver these vital reforms that are long overdue – Luciana Berger, shadow minister for mental health ( 15 Feb 2016)
- NHS Clinical Commissioners – NHSCC welcomes Mental Health Taskforce Report (15 Feb 2016)
- The RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) – Living a long life? How mental health impacts life expectancy – People with a mental health condition are more likely to die before the age of 75 from a range of treatable illnesses
- Relate – Submission to Mental Health Taskforce
- Royal College of GPs – RCGP response to Mental Health Taskforce report (15 Feb 2016)
- Samaritans – We need a revolution in suicide prevention (15 Feb 2016)
- Mental health care provision – failings and opportunities – Hugh Pym (15 Feb 2016)
- NHS mental health funding falls in England – FoI figures – Sarah Bloch (14 Feb 2016)
- Poor mental health care ‘ruining lives’ – Nick Triggle (15 Feb 2016)
- Community Care
- Mental health’s billion pound question – how much of the taskforce funding is new? – NHS England has pledged £1bn a year extra for mental health by 2020 – Andy McNicholl (15 Feb 2016)
- NHS agrees five-year plan to address ‘unacceptable’ mental health failings – Services will get £1bn a year in additional investment by 2020-21 but funding is largely from previously announced initiatives – Andy McNicholl (15 Feb 2016)
- NHS vows to transform mental health services with extra £1bn a year – “Taskforce calls for provision of 24/7 support for people in crisis and 10% reduction in suicide rates” – Ben Quinn, Denis Campbell & Damien Gayle (15 Feb 2016)
- The Guardian view on mental health: still underfunded after too many false promises – “Another new dawn for mental health. This time it must be for real – the whole NHS depends on it” – Editorial (15 Feb 2016)
- HSJ (£) –Taskforce delivers blueprint for future of mental healthcare (15 Feb 2016)
- Pulse – Train at least 700 mental health specialist GPs by 2020, recommends taskforce (15 Feb 2016)
- NHE National Health Executive – Mental health to get £1bn lift after taskforce paints bleak picture (15 Feb 2016)
- Times (£) – Finally the penny has dropped on mental health – The PM’s latest social policy initiative will bring badly needed cash to a Cinderella service – (15 Feb 2016)
- Vice – What Does the Extra £1Billion For NHS Mental Health Services Actually Mean? – Hannah Ewens (15 Feb 2016)
- Some tweets about the mental health taskforce (15 Feb 2016)
- Some comments on the report and recommendations (15 Feb 2016)
- Tweets from Sarah Wollaston MP (15 Feb 2016)