Next Prime Minister can’t turn back on mental health

The next Prime Minister must not let down a generation by stepping back on mental health commitments, six national mental health charities will warn tomorrow as they launch a new manifesto aimed at the new Tory leader.

The Chief Executives and President of the Mental Health Policy Group will call on Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt to honour and build on existing government promises on mental health, such as reiterating their commitment to deliver the £2.3bn to mental health services and bring forward legislation to reform the Mental Health Act.

Centre for Mental Health, the Mental Health Foundation, NHS Confederation Mental Health Network, Mind, Rethink Mental Illness and the Royal College of Psychiatrists - have written to the candidates with their new manifesto Towards Mental Health Equality which sets out five key areas that the next Prime Minister must tackle to improve the mental health of the nation.

The manifesto also asks the next leader of the Conservative party to look beyond the NHS at what other government departments must do to play their role in tackling the mental health crisis, to give equal focus to prevention and to plug the looming gaps in the mental health workforce.

Speaking on behalf of the Group, Mark Winstanley CEO of Rethink Mental Illness said: “When the history books write up the Theresa May government, its action on mental health may be seen as its crowning achievement, with an Independent Review of the outdated Mental Health Act, funding for a new raft of services to support and care for people living with severe mental illness in the community, and an important focus in the NHS Long Term Plan on inequalities.

“The two people who now want to be the next Prime Minister must not step back from the journey we are on. That would be letting down a generation. Delivering long-lasting positive change for mental health requires sustained leadership and commitment – and we urge both candidates to publicly commit to that as soon as possible.

“A new government can and should also go further. It must plan today to develop a robust cross-government plan for mental health, recognising that improving mental health is not just about the NHS. As well as recruiting the psychiatrists and mental health nurses of the future, and bringing new skills into the mental workforce, it should root out the causes of preventable mental health problems. Current policies in social security and housing are undermining the good work being done by the NHS – that has to stop.”

The manifesto asks that the new Prime Minister:

  1. Takes action to prevent mental health problems developing including steps to ensure employers support the wellbeing of their staff and that students and new parents are taught about mental health
  2. Creates a cross-government plan for mental health and establishes a ‘mental health in all policies’ approach across government particularly in relation to social care, housing, the social security system and the criminal justice system
  3. Reforms the Mental Health Act by implementing the recommendations of the Independent Review of the Act chaired by Professor Sir Simon Wessely
  4.  Ensures everyone can access the right mental health support, in the right place, at the right time by maintaining course with the recently published NHS Long Term Plan which found new money for mental health, including a new system of care and support in the community, help for those in crisis and more help for children and young people living with mental illness
  5.  Builds a mental health workforce fit for the future to ensure that the commitments of the Long Term Plan and to deliver parity of esteem are not damaged by a lack of trained professionals

The charities last published a manifesto before the 2017 General Election and have since welcomed improvements in many areas that they highlighted as requiring urgent improvement including:

  • A commitment to implementing the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health and the publication of data to measure progress against these recommendations.
  • Mental health being made a central priority in the NHS Long Term Plan, including vital additional funding for mental health services and an important focus on prevention and addressing health inequalities.
  • A full independent review of the Mental Health Act, with a commitment to publish a White Paper by the end of 2019.
  • Ongoing government support for the Time to Change campaign to tackle stigma and discrimination against people with mental health problems.
  • Commitment to supporting people with mental health problems at work by implementing the recommendations from Thriving at work: a review of mental health and employers .
  • The appointment of the first Minister for Suicide Prevention.

Read the full manifesto