Theresa May will announce in a speech to the Charity Commission on 9 January 2017 her plans for a ‘shared society’ a large part of which seeks to address problems with the perception and treatment of mental health. Mental health problems cost the NHS £105bn annually and affect younger people more than their older counterparts.
Theresa May hopes to remove the stigma society places on mental illness through a series of measures:
- CQC-led review into children and adolescent services with the ultimate goal being to improve links between NHS services and schools;
- Schools will be offered training in mental health first aid;
- Companies will be given training and support enabling them to support employees who need to take time off to address mental health problems;
- Online services will allow more to be determined prior to attending GP/professionals in person;
- Community care will be given more focus with £15m extra funding being offered;
- A review is to be conducted on improving support for mental illness in the workplace;
- A review of the ‘health debt form’ system, a process where people are required to pay £300 to a GP to produce a report for creditors certifying that the person has a mental health problem, is to be carried out.
Theresa May will say to the Charity Commission: – “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.”
This vision for a change in the way that mental health is perceived will be welcomed by the industry. Critics of the plans will note that little in the way of extra funding has been announced. There have been repeated calls for additional funding to support the increasing burden on the NHS. The focus of spending in the NHS continues to be on physical health and as such mental health has been neglected. Most recent figures point to mental ill-health accounting for 25% of the burden on NHS but the proportion of NHS spending is 11%. Theresa May’s plans do seem to be a welcome step change in perception and will go some way to resetting the way that mental health is perceived. The mental health sector and society-at-large would hope to hear announcements addressing the very real imbalance in funding for mental health as against its physical health counterparts.