The pandemic affected the mental health of people across our country, and I welcome action taken by the Government to improve relevant support and services.
Unfortunately, I was unable to attend Mind’s Parliamentary event due to prior commitments. However, I would be interested to receive more information about the condition of mental health hospitals.
As part of the five-year funding offer agreed in 2019, mental health services will receive an additional £2.3 billion a year in real terms by 2023-24 enabling service expansion and faster access to community and crisis mental health services for all. The Government has committed to increase mental health spend to 8.9 per cent of all NHS funding.
As announced in the 2021 Spending Review, a new investment of £150 million will be spent on NHS mental health facilities linked to A&E to enhance patient safety. Additionally, around £300 million will complete the programme of replacing mental health dormitories with single en-suite rooms.
Almost £1 billion of extra funding in community mental health care by 2023/24 will give 370,000 adults and older adults with severe mental illnesses, including eating disorders, greater control over their care and will support them in their communities. The Government aims to grow the mental health workforce by an additional 27,000 staff by 2023/24; indeed, the mental health workforce has increased by over 8,900 full-time equivalent staff in 2022 compared to 2021.
Last year, the Government pledged to expand mental health support in schools, particularly as half of related conditions take root by the age of 14. 'Our Plan for Patients' promised to boost the number of mental health practitioners in primary care and to strengthen mental health support in schools. It also commits to improve access to NHS talking therapies and to enhance community support for adults living with severe mental illnesses.
In December 2022, the Government announced £3.6 million of funding for the National Academy of Social Prescribing, an organisation which helps those experiencing grief, addiction, dementia and loneliness through community-led social activities, services and opportunities with proven benefits to well-being.
The Government is set to publish a Major Conditions Strategy, and mental ill health is one of the six major conditions included. This ensures that it is considered alongside other physical health conditions rather than as a standalone strategy. The Department of Health and Social Care has launched its call for evidence for the Major Conditions Strategy; the consultation is now closed, and findings will be released in due course.
Preventing and providing better support for mental ill health will certainly be part of the strategy, as well as our separate standalone Suicide Prevention Strategy. The Government recognises that the risk factors to mental ill health are often cross-society in nature and therefore require a cross-departmental approach.
All the submissions received on the 10-year mental health strategy consultation will be considered as part of the Major Conditions Strategy. Given the original consultation received over 5,000 submissions, the Government appreciates the engagement work carried out by many stakeholders.
Through the National Institute for Health Research, the Government funds a range of research in mental health to inform national mental health policy. In 2020, £93.4 million was spent on mental health research, an increase from the previous year, and it is welcome that the Government is committed to having mental health research as a priority area.
Examples of research include a study jointly led with King's College London and eating disorder charity Beat aiming to better understand what may lead to an eating disorder. In 2021, UK Research and Innovation announced £24 million investment into adolescent mental health, including projects to better understand the relationship between social media and the mental health problems some young people face.
I was very encouraged to see the Government’s commitments to health-related research and development (R&D) in the 2021 Spending Review, including the largest ever cash uplift for health R&D. Funding will increase by £605 million, meaning the overall investment will rise to £2 billion by 2024/25. I look forward to learning more about projects that this funding will support.
In November 2022, the Government announced plans to introduce a Vaccine Taskforce style approach to tackling some of the biggest public health challenges facing the UK. As part of this, the Government announced over £113 million to fund research into four healthcare missions – cancer, obesity, mental health and addiction – to unlock the next generation of medicines and diagnostics to save lives, transform patient care and ensure UK patients are the first to benefit from medical breakthroughs.
The Office for Health Improvement and Disparities launched the latest 'Better Health – Every Mind Matters' campaign in October 2022. This is alongside a pledge to invest £122 million to put recipients of mental health support in touch with jobs advisers. Offering employment support to people under the care of NHS mental health services is a vital part improving the overall well-being of patients.
Treating and caring for people in a safe, compassionate environment – for both patients and staff – is a top priority for the Government. The Government is committed to reducing the use of restraint through the Mental Health Units (Use of Force) Act which seeks to reduce the use of force and restrictive practices in mental health units.
In 2021, statutory guidance around the Mental Health (Use of Force) Act for NHS organisations in England and Police Forces in England and Wales was published, with a greater focus on preventing situations from escalating.
Around two thirds of people with a long-term physical health condition also have a mental health problem, most commonly anxiety and depression.
Therefore, I welcome the commitment in the NHS Long Term Plan to expand access to psychological therapies for adults with common mental health problems, with a focus on those with long-term conditions.
By 2023/24, it is expected that an additional 380,000 people will be able to access these services annually. This will be most welcome for many living with a long-term condition, and I urge anybody already experiencing mental ill health related to an ongoing physical illness to get in touch with their GP.
Let me assure you that the NHS in England is committed to ensuring consistent access to mental health care for older adults with functional needs (like depression, anxiety and severe mental illnesses).
For those who require treatment, Improving Access to Psychological Therapies services have provided an important role in improving the treatment of anxiety and depression in adults over the last 15 years. Local areas are expected to ensure these services can meet the needs of older carers and people living with dementia and/or frailty, including people living in care homes.
If you or a family member requires support, in addition to getting help from the NHS I would also encourage you to access the information, support and advice provided by charities such as Age UK and Independent Age to help older people manage their mental health.
I hope these improved services end the stigma surrounding mental health, offering crucial support to those who have suffered in silence for too long.