Mental Health Foundation responds to Health Select Committee Public Health report

Today, the Health Committee published the findings of their ‘Public health post-2013 - structures, organisation, funding and delivery’ inquiry. While the report makes a number of positive recommendations for improving the delivery of public health, the focus of the recommendations are mainly on supporting physical health with a glaring lack of parity for mental health.

As the UKs leading public mental health organisation, we are keen to highlight that public mental health is a fundamental aspect of public health and key determinant of physical health, which we advocated for strong in the written evidence we submitted to the inquiry.

We continue to be concerned that the prevention aspect of health protection continues to be given less priority than the response to disease outbreaks. We believe that there is an urgent need for a shift in how we approach mental health; away from the ‘deficit model’ where we wait for mental health problems to develop before taking action to a world which recognises mental health as a universal asset to be strengthened and protected.

We echo concerns from the report that the £200m cuts, and further real terms cuts to public health budgets, will have a negative impact on community care and support, and call into question the Government’s commitments to the prevention agenda as these actions could in fact discourage integration of services. Without immediate action to address the increasing demand for public services, it will not be possible to absorb the rising costs of providing care and support for those experiencing mental ill health in the long term. This creates an economic imperative for working to prevent mental ill health arising and worsening and tackling this significant public health challenge.

We welcome the reports recommendation of a ‘whole life approach’ across local communities to reduce the prevalence and distress caused by mental health problems by giving individuals, families and communities the tools to protect and manage their own mental health. However, in line with the reports recommendation, we argue that commissioning needs to focus even more on community based solutions, moving away from hospital-based care.

The reports recommendation that the Government should create a new cabinet position to oversee the integration of health into all policy areas provides a unique and unprecedented opportunity to move prevention and early intervention up the political agenda. Prevention was a central priority to come out of the public engagement consultation that fed into the Mental Health Taskforce report and we are pleased to see this reflected in the report.

Today’s report, while outlining some clear and important recommendations for improving public health provision through improving data, increasing transparency of responsibility and ensuring real support for local government to improve public health with funding and leadership, doesn’t go far enough to ensure mental health is fully integrated into the public health agenda. To neglect public mental health is to only consider half the picture, ultimately undermining public health interventions.