“No health without mental health”: the new mental health strategy for England

28th February 2011

In February 2011 the UK Government announced a new mental health strategy for England. SRN Network Manager, Lucy Mulvagh, looks at some of its main features.

nohealthpubcoverThe stated aim of the new English strategy is to improve the mental health and wellbeing of people and improve outcomes for those with mental health problems. This will be achieved, it says, by putting mental health on an equal footing with physical health, and the provision of high quality services that are accessible to all.

No health without mental health has a similar focus to the previous Labour mental health strategy, introduced just over a year ago. For both the goal is to shift the emphasis away from the treatment of illness and towards its prevention.

The similarities with Labour’s approach to tackling mental health issues continues in the new strategy with its proposal to increase access to talking therapies by 60% by the year 2015 (from 2m currently using it to 3.2m). This is an extension of Labour’s Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IATP) programme.

One feature of the new Coalition Government strategy that has gained widespread media attention is the programme to offer CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) and other psychological therapies to children and young people who show signs of anxiety and depression. The development of a psychological therapies model specifically for children will be overseen by the IATP team. Under the adult treatment programme, short courses of CBT and similar will also be offered. There has been some criticism, for example from the UK Council for Psychotherapy, that only a narrow range of therapies is being offered and that people seeking other forms will have to do so privately.

Professor David Richards, head of mental health services research at the University of Exeter, was an independent adviser to the Department of Health and very involved in developing the IATP until his dismissal on 4th February. In a letter to the Guardian newspaper, he had questioned the statement made by Deputy Prime Minster Nick Clegg that an additional £400m would be made available for the programme. However it subsequently emerged that the funding is not new, but will be redirected from other budgets.

A key element of the new strategy is its cross-governmental nature, intimating that mental health will be mainstreamed throughout all departments. Particular mention is made of the interconnection between mental health, housing, employment and the criminal justice system. The strategy document states that “[Government] objectives for employment, for education, for training, for safety and crime reduction, for reducing drug and alcohol dependence and homelessness cannot be achieved without improvements in mental health.

A number of high profile academic and third sector organisations, including Mind and Rethink, have pledged to work together to deliver the following six principle objectives specified in No health without mental health:

  • More people will have good mental health.
  • More people with mental health problems will recover.
  • More people with mental health problems will have good physical health.
  • More people will have a positive experience of care and support.
  • Fewer people will suffer avoidable harm.
  • Fewer people will experience stigma and discrimination.

Against each of these objectives is set out a list of specific commitments for different government departments, and an indication of whether these are already underway or new proposals.

In order to track whether the objectives have been achieved, No health proposes using a number of national-level indicators from existing or proposed outcomes frameworks, including public health, the NHS, and adult social care. The strategy document recognises, however, that there are several areas where insufficient indicators are available, such as measuring aspects of mental wellbeing, and that there is a lack of indicators covering all age groups.

For more information about the new mental health strategy for England, visit the Department of Health website.