This week, on 9 February, we saw for the first time the publication of the Government’s Integration White Paper, intended to pave the way for a more joined up and inter-connected approach to health and social care.
The intent to improve the ways in which disparate services work together to the benefit of those most in need is undoubtedly the right one, and one which The Association and its members have long advocated.
It is also good to see examples of lived experience, in the form of case studies, at the heart of this paper; “joining up care for people, places and populations” which highlight the crucial and positive aims better integration can have on the lives of individuals with poor mental health.
The paper purports to build on the work of the recent People at the Heart of Care: Adult Social Care Reform White Paper. However, while mental health is referred to on 16 occasions, as is the vital importance of closer working between mental health and social care services, this integration paper is lacking in the specific details of how such collaboration will be achieved.
Furthermore “stakeholders” need to have enough time to be consulted on the detail and how in principle the reforms of both the ICS and ICB systems will deliver the overarching support services within mental health at a localised level. This is a significant task that should not be underestimated within the ambition of implementing shared outcomes from April 2023.
The White Paper sets out various ways in which health and social care can be better united – including “better transparency and choice”, “more personalised care” and “earlier intervention” – but does not set out the ways in which any increases or changes in service will be funded.
The genuine fear is that VCSEs, many of them already stretched close to breaking point by funding shortages and lack of workforce availability, will once again have to stand in the gap, and work ever harder in the face of dwindling resources.
Furthermore, whilst children and adolescent mental health services are not directly within scope of this paper, localities are encouraged to consider the effective working across children and adult health and care. Now more than ever because of the pandemic we are seeing increased presentations within our children and young adult population and there is a need for effective coproduction across services to ensure they are supported and also, to ensure there is continuity of care and support in the transition between children and young people’s to adult mental health services.
A truly collaborative approach to mental health and social care can only be achieved when that collaboration encompasses the VCSE sector, working in partnership with local authorities, primary and secondary care, the regulator and DHSC to plan for, and meet, the needs of all people with poor mental health and illness, and their families and carers.
Notes to Editors
About Association of Mental Health Providers
Association of Mental Health Providers is the only national representative organisation for voluntary and community sector providers of mental health and wellbeing services across the country. With over 300 members, The Association works with local, regional, and national service providers to support the development of the sector, amplify its voice, and ensure the sector informs and influences all mental health policy and practice.