NHS England, in its latest planning guidance, Forward View into action: planning for 2015-16, has set the expectation that clinical commissioning groups’ (CCG) spending on mental health services in 2015/16 should increase in real terms, and grow by at least as much as each CCG’s allocation increase to support the ambition of parity between mental and physical health. At both a national and regional level, work is being done to robustly assure this and ensure there is clear validity for commissioner justification of proposed spend.
‘Achieving Better Access to Mental Health Services by 2020’, published in October 2014, enabled the setting of access and waiting time standards in mental health services for the very first time. These were introduced in 2015/16 and included:
- treatment within six weeks for 75% of people referred to the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies programme, with 95% of people being treated within 18 weeks;
- treatment within two weeks for more than 50% of people experiencing a first episode of psychosis; and
- £30 million targeted investment will help people in crisis to access effective support in accident and emergency. Availability of liaison psychiatry will inform Care Quality Commission inspection and therefore contribute to ratings.
The Department and NHS England are working together with mental health system partners to develop detailed proposals for the introduction of further access and waiting time standards from 2016 onwards.
Following the publication of the national Mental Health Crisis Care Concordat in February 2014, every area has now signed up to the Concordat and detailed action plans are now in place across the country setting out how local partners will work together to adopt these principles and improve crisis care. Many plans include the enhancement of existing services and the development of new services involving a range of partners, including local third sector organisations.
Our current commitment to the national anti-stigma Time to Change programme relates to a standalone year of activity in 2015-16. This is for a core programme with a budget of £4.6 million in 2015-16, with the Department contributing £2.5 million, the Big Lottery Fund contributing £1.1 million and Comic Relief £1 million.
The first annual report on Preventing suicide in England: A cross-government outcomes strategy to save lives was published in January 2014 and highlighted a new agreement designed to promote greater sharing of information with friends and family of people at risk of suicide. In January 2015, an ambition for ‘zero suicides’ was announced to raise the aspiration for mental health and suicide prevention.
On 18 May 2015, the Prime Minister reaffirmed his commitment that children’s mental health and improving access and reducing waiting times for children remains a key priority for this Government.
The 2015 Budget announced increased funding for children’s mental health by £1.25 billion over the next five years (£250 million per year), starting in April 2015.
The principal task of the Mental Health Taskforce, formed in March 2015, is to develop a new five-year all-ages national strategy for mental health. In order to develop the strategy, the Taskforce is exploring the variation in access to and quality of mental health services across England; looking at outcomes for people who are and are not able to access services and consider ways to tackle the prevention of mental health problems.