A report by the chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, has suggested that mental health needs to be made more of a priority. Targets need to be made for waiting times and more protection given to funding. The Department of Health’s chief medical officer has asked health experts to investigate whether it would be beneficial to speed up the treatment pathway for those who may be out of work due to mental health. Dame Sally added that such a move could improve people’s chances of staying in work.
The annual report looks at the epidemiology of public mental health, the quality of evidence, possible future innovations in science and technology and the economic case for good mental health. It outlines the importance of both treating mental health equally to physical health and focusing on the needs and safety of people with mental health challenges. The aims include fulfilling two functions: to increase the transparency of progress within the public health sector and to help move forward improvements across England. It is recommended within the report that NHS England develops a programme of work to agree waiting times and access standards across mental health services. This programme could start with the collection and publication of robust national data to underpin the development and implementation of this programme.
A key suggestion was made that Commissioners in Local Authorities, Health and Wellbeing Boards and Clinical Commissioning Groups should follow the World Health Organisations (WHO) model in commissioning and prioritising evidence based interventions for mental health promotion, mental illness prevention, treatment and rehabilitation. WHO supports governments in their goal of strengthening and promoting mental health. WHO has evaluated evidence for promoting mental health and is working with governments to disseminate this information and to integrate effective strategies into policies and plans. In 2013, the World Health Assembly approved a Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan for 2013-2020. The Plan is a commitment by all WHO Member States to take specific actions to improve mental health and to contribute to the attainment of a set of global targets.
The Action Plan’s overall goal is to promote mental well-being, prevent mental disorders, provide care, enhance recovery, promote human rights and reduce the mortality and disability rate for people with mental health challenges. It focuses on four key objectives; to strengthen effective leadership and governance for mental health and provide comprehensive, integrated and responsive mental health and social care services in community-based settings. The action plan also implements strategies for promotion and prevention in mental health. Furthermore, it strengthens information systems, evidence and research. Particular emphasis is given in the Action Plan to the protection and promotion of human rights, the strengthening and empowering of civil society and to community-based care.
Davies’ report suggests that good health support and services should be based on high quality, accurate data. Dame Sally Davies welcomes the development of the Mental Health, Dementia and Neurology Intelligence Network (MHIN); which should bring together a range of publicly available data presented by Clinical Commissioning Groups and Local Authority areas. She thinks it is an important step forward for parity and transparency of data.
The report recommends a period of specific mental health training during GP training. A core part of this training should involve awareness. In addition, Health Education England should publish a report in 2015 on the progress of meeting its targets. In particular, 45 percent of foundation year doctors undertaking a post in psychiatry from 2014–15 onwards.
What additional recommendations might be made to improve mental health?