Prime Minister unveils plans to “transform mental health support in workplaces”
Prime Minister Theresa May has announced a “comprehensive package of measures to transform mental health support in our schools, workplaces and communities”.
Delivering the annual Charity Commission lecture yesterday, the Prime Minister said that true parity for mental and physical health can only be achieved if every institution recognises the vital role it can play in delivering this objective.
I want us to employ the power of government as a force for good to transform the way we deal with mental health problems right across society” – Prime Minister Theresa May
The Prime Minister said that: “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. Yet left unaddressed, it destroys lives, it separates people from each other and deepens the divisions within our society. Changing this goes right to the heart of our humanity; to the heart of the kind of country we are, the values we share, the attitudes we hold and our determination to come together and support each other.”
On her plans, the Prime Minister added: “I want us to employ the power of government as a force for good to transform the way we deal with mental health problems right across society, and at every stage of life.
“What I am announcing are the first steps in our plan to transform the way we deal with mental illness in this country at every stage of a person’s life: not in our hospitals, but in our classrooms, at work and in our communities.
“This starts with ensuring that children and young people get the help and support they need and deserve – because we know that mental illness too often starts in childhood and that when left untreated, can blight lives, and become entrenched.”
Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of mental health charity Sane, welcomed the Prime Minister’s recognition that the issue was a priority but added: “Mrs May’s emphasis on stigma, without commitment to ring-fenced money, will not bring the hoped for revolution in mental health care.
“As she speaks, psychiatric beds are being closed, the patients who contact Sane are turned away from A&E, have no place to go in crisis or are shunted hundreds of miles across the country to obtain treatment.”
“Mrs May’s emphasis on stigma, without commitment to ring-fenced money, will not bring the hoped for revolution in mental health care. – Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of mental health charity Sane
The plans aim to make mental health an everyday concern for every bit of the system, helping ensure that no one affected by mental ill-health goes unattended, the Government website says. It includes:
- new support for schools with every secondary school in the country to be offered mental health first aid training and new trials to look at how to strengthen the links between schools and local NHS mental health staff. There will also be a major thematic review of children and adolescent mental health services across the country, led by the Care Quality Commission, to identify what is working and what is not and a new green paper on children and young people’s mental health to set out plans to transform services in schools, universities and for families
- a new partnership with employers to improve mental health support in the workplace. The Prime Minister has appointed Lord Dennis Stevenson, the long-time campaigner for greater understanding and treatment of mental illness, and Paul Farmer CBE, CEO of Mind and Chair of the NHS Mental Health Taskforce, to drive work with business and the public sector to support mental health in the workplace. These experts will lead a review on how best to ensure employees with mental health problems are enabled to thrive in the workplace and perform at their best. This will involve practical help including promoting best practice and learning from trailblazer employers, as well as offering tools to organisations, whatever size they are, to assist with employee well-being and mental health. It will review recommendations around discrimination in the workplace on the grounds of mental health
- further alternatives to hospital to support people in the community. Recognising that seeing a GP or going to A&E is not or does not feel like the right intervention for many people with mental ill-health, the government will build on its £15 million investment to provide and promote new models of community – based care such as crisis cafes and community clinics. The initial £15 million investment led to 88 new places of safety being created and the government now plans to spend up to a further £15 million to build on this success
- plans to rapidly expand treatment by investing in and expanding digital mental health services. Digitally assisted therapy has already proved successful in other countries and the government will speed up the delivery of a £67.7 million digital mental health package so that those worried about stress, anxiety or more serious issues can go online, check their symptoms and if needed, access digital therapy immediately rather than waiting weeks for a face-to-face appointment – with further follow up face-to-face sessions offered as necessary
- new ways to right the injustices people with mental health problems face. Despite known links between debt and mental health, currently hundreds of mental health patients are charged up to £300 by their GP for a form to prove they have mental health issues. To end this unfair practice the Department for Health will undertake a formal review of the mental health debt form, working with Money and Mental Health. The government will also support NHS England’s commitment to eliminate inappropriate placements to inpatient beds for children and young people by 2021 – a practice which currently sees hundreds of children being sent halfway across the country to access mental health services
In 2014 mental health conditions affected almost 1 in 5 of all working-age people and around 1 in 7 of people in full-time employment. In the workplace 18 million days were lost to sickness absence caused by mental health conditions in 2015 at a cost of around £9 billion a year to employers – gov.uk
Yesterday’s announcements build on improvements to mental health support since 2010. The government says it is currently investing more in mental health than ever before – spending an estimated £11.7 billion a year and has already legislated to give mental and physical health equal priority in law.
Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, the mental health charity, said: “It’s important to see the Prime Minister talking about mental health and shows how far we have come in bringing the experiences of people with mental health problems up the political agenda. Mental health should be at the heart of government, and at the heart of society and communities – it’s been on the periphery for far too long.
“We welcome the announcements around a focus on prevention in schools and workplaces and support for people in crisis. The proof will be in the difference it makes to the day-to-day experience of the 1 in 4 who will experience a mental health problem this year. Mental health is everyone’s business and we need to see sustained leadership to make sure services and support improve for all of us with mental health problems. Having been neglected for decades, we need to see it made a priority for decades to come to make sure everyone with mental health problems can live the life they want to lead.”
Sir Ian Cheshire, Chairman of the Heads Together campaign, said: “The Prime Minister’s announcements today are extremely important and very welcome, as they show both a willingness to tackle the broad challenge of mental health support and a practical grasp of how to start making a real difference.
“As the chair of Heads Together, an alliance of charity and corporate partners committed to changing the national conversation on mental health, I would urge all involved in the sector to collaborate and build on these initiatives.”
Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb said: “This is a puny response to a burning injustice and an attempt to cover up for this government’s failure to deliver on promised investment for children’s mental health.
“I welcome the fact the Prime Minister is addressing the issue of mental health and the focus on schools and employment is right.
“But measures to improve mental health care in schools were already agreed during coalition, and the current government has failed to ensure the investment needed to implement them has got through.”
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