NHS England has today published the NHS Long Term Plan, setting out their strategy and ambition for how, over the next ten years, they will make the NHS fit for the future and through the measures outlined, tackle some of the most significant health inequalities in society.
Welcoming the NHS Long Term Plan, Chief Executive Kathy Roberts commented:
“We are pleased to see the publication of the long-awaited Long Term Plan which makes significant commitments to improving mental health services including a new ringfenced local investment fund worth at least £2.3 billion a year by 2023/24, introduction of 24-hour mental health crisis support in the community, continued commitment to end out of area placements, help people with serious mental illness including to gain and retain employment, extending access to support for more children and young people up to the age of 25, and specialised perinatal mental health care.
“We have been pleased to have worked with colleagues from NHS England and the mental health sector during the consultation phase to voice our concerns, represent the VCSE sector, and push for commitments that can effect real change and improve mental health services for those that need it including, but not limited to, on community-based approaches, funding, prevention, crisis support, integration of mental and physical health, and workforce. Although there is a clear focus on prevention in the Plan, which we are pleased to note, this is largely related to physical health and does not extend to mental health as is needed. It is important that measures are considered to prevent the development of mental health conditions, as have been outlined to prevent physical health problems.
“Mental Health has been prioritised in the Plan with commitments that have potential to bring parity of esteem, however, we would emphasise that for the NHS to be able to deliver its mental health pledges, it needs to work collaboratively with the voluntary and community sector as the largest provider of mental health services, which has a vital role through its integrated approaches to whole -system and whole-sectors in the planning and delivery of services. Throughout our engagement with Policy Leads we emphasised the valuable role the VCSE has as a complex, vast, and diverse sector, with significant reach into the community, and with an established history of innovative care solutions.
“To focus on one key priority, it is important to highlight the role of the skilled non-NHS workforce, who have a vital role in delivering care and support in community settings, and meeting the challenges of the workforce cannot be achieved without considering the whole-system. It must be emphasised that change cannot be achieved by just increasing NHS and/or clinical staff, but utilising the whole workforce, considering the knowledge and skills based in community settings, which will allow for positive change and better outcomes. The NHS provides an undeniably significant service, but the fact remains that wherever possible people want to be settled in communities and not have to enter the NHS. There must be a more joined-up, integrated and cross-sector approach to meet the workforce challenges faced by, not just the health, but also the social care sector. It is crucial that the NHS and the VCSE mental health sector are sustainable and grow alongside each other to improve support for people with mental health needs.
“We would also stress the importance of social care and public health in the delivery of the Long-Term Plan to tackle health inequalities and are concerned by the recent cut to public health funding. It is now vital that the Government takes appropriate action and instigates a joined-up approach to ensure the measures announced can be implemented fully and for mental health services to be improved and transformed as needed.
“It is essential that the knowledge, learning, and real strength of the VCSE sector is taken seriously and utilised alongside the NHS to achieve the plans for the mental health sector moving forward. We recognise that everyone can be affected by mental ill-health and we believe it is essential that the mental health voluntary and community sector works together for a whole-system approach to improve health and care.”
The full document, along with other resources, can be read at www.longtermplan.nhs.uk.
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