Many health and wellbeing boards giving ‘little priority’ to mental health

No mention of mental health in one in ten strategies drawn up to address local health needs, review finds

Mental health is a standalone priority for care in less than half of the strategies drawn up by health and wellbeing boards to meet local health needs, a report has found.

While 91% of the strategies made some mention of mental health, only 46% identified it as a dedicated priority, an analysis by the Centre for Mental Health found. Almost one in ten (9%) strategies did not include mental health at all.

Health and wellbeing boards bring together local authorities, NHS commissioners and other groups to set local health priorities through joint health and wellbeing strategies.

The boards were introduced under the government’s Health and Social Care Act 2012 and are a key part of the coalition’s vision of more integrated health and social care. Yet the Centre for Mental Health’s review of 100 joint strategies found that many are failing to meet the government’s stated commitment to parity of esteem between physical and mental health.

Sean Duggan, chief executive at the Centre for Mental Health, said: “We have found some examples of exciting, innovative approaches in some joint health and wellbeing strategies. But many boards have given little priority to mental health.”

Even in strategies that did list mental health as a standalone priority, this often took the form of broad statements with little detail as to how outcomes would be achieved. This raised “real concerns” about some boards’ lack of focus on mental health, the report found.

The types of mental health needs being prioritised varied widely. Children’s mental health featured in 55% of strategies. But several vulnerable groups were under-represented, with only 5% of strategies addressing mental health needs of homeless people.

Duggan said the Centre for Mental Health hoped the review would help identify opportunities for local health and wellbeing boards to improve their strategies. The report makes a number of recommendations for boards, including that they ensure clinical commissioning groups are held to account if they fail to engage with the commitments laid out in strategies.
is Community Care’s community editor

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