Mental health tsar: New Horizons to tackle recession impact

Mental health tsar Louis Appleby has said the government’s new 10-year mental health strategy could help ‘recession-proof’ mental health services by improving value for money.

Appleby told last week’s annual conference of the NHS Confederation’s Mental Health Network that the government would produce a “next stages” document setting out how it would take forward the New Horizons strategy next month.

New Horizons, the consultation on which closed last month, replaces the 10-year National Service Framework for Mental Health, which expires this year. It is designed to make mental healthcare more personalised and preventive, while also boosting the mental wellbeing of the population.

Recession challenges

Appleby, national director for mental health at the Department of Health, acknowledged the challenges the recession was providing for services.

But he added: “This is an opportunity to future-proof the direction of mental health development at a time when we may be seeing some challenges, either because of economic pressures, new research funding or changes in public attitude.

“It’s an opportunity for us to set out enduring principles and an opportunity to recession-proof what’s been achieved over the last 10 years by highlighting value for money.”

His comments followed the publication of a report, by the Mental Health Network and the Royal College of Psychiatrists, about the impact of the economic downturn on mental healthcare. This raised concerns about the future of services including the government’s programme to improve access to talking therapies.

Actions on several fronts

Appleby said the DH would set out actions on a number of fronts in next month’s document, in conjunction with other departments, including:-

• Work with the Department for Work and Pensions to improve employment and training prospects for people of working age with mental health conditions.

• Work with the Ministry of Defence to help combat mental health problems, particularly depression, among ex-servicemen, which is the commonest mental health problem among ex-servicemen.

• Work with the Ministry of Justice to improve support for people with mental health problems in the criminal justice system, implementing proposals in Lord Bradley’s report on the issue.

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