The new Major Conditions Strategy and scrapping of the 10-year mental health plan – MQ’s response.
By Lea Milligan CEO, MQ Mental Health Research
After the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Steve Barclay’s, announcement yesterday in the House of Commons that the Government will not be launching the long anticipated 10-year mental health plan, but will instead be launching a new ‘Major conditions strategy’, there are a great number of questions that remain to be answered.
On the plus side, it is very encouraging to see the Government breaking down the silos between physical and mental health conditions. We hope that this integrated approach to healthcare will see more whole-person care plans that address the often-occurring co-morbidities between physical and mental health conditions.
However, are the Government able to guarantee that the long-underfunded mental health services will be ‘levelled up’ with physical care resources, so that mental health does not remain the ‘Cinderella service’?
In his announcement, Steve Barclay referred to ‘mental ill-health’ as if it was a ‘catch all’ term for a whole host of very different conditions which require different approaches to detection and treatment.
Does this new strategy allow for the vast differences between eating disorders and depression? Psychosis and anxiety disorders? And if so, when are we likely to find out this detail?
The responsibility of this new strategy seems to be solely on the NHS, and focused on just care delivery. In his statement, Steve Barclay said, “This is about shifting our model towards preserving good health and the early detection and treatment of diseases.” However there is no mention of prevention, or of working with schools and education settings to provide early intervention services.
As 75% of mental illnesses develop in childhood, will this new strategy involve working collaboratively with schools and local authorities to improve early intervention measures for children showing early signs of mental distress?
MQ Science Council member and lead of MQ’s Gone Too Soon Thematic programme Professor Rory O’Connor said:
“While I appreciate that a ‘whole-person’ approach to physical and mental health is needed to tackle premature mortality associated with mental illness and distress, I am concerned that grouping together all mental health conditions under the single umbrella of mental ill-health will simply not get the focus and funding that they urgently need. As we continue to recover from the pandemic, and endure the cost of living crisis, this is not the time to de-prioritise mental health. This is especially concerning as we know that the impact of the last few years has disproportionately affected the mental health of the most vulnerable in our society. Pre-existing inequalities were further exacerbated during COVID-19 and my fear is that the scrapping of the 10 year plan for mental health to make way for the major conditions strategy is a backward step. We are facing a national mental health crisis which requires an urgent whole of government approach to tackle the complexities and inequalities in mental health.”
The last, but possibly most important question of all. When are we going to see this new strategy?
The 10-year mental health plan was already long overdue. Last year MQ, along with many, many other organisations working within mental health, submitted evidence for this plan in the expectation that we would be seeing some coherent strategy from the government now about the prevention, early detection and much-needed improvement to mental health care in the UK.
There is a growing crisis in the nation’s mental health. 733,000 children and young people were in contact with mental health services in 2021/22. An 84% increase on the year before.
Nowhere near enough is being invested in research into how to improve treatments and interventions, or how to make services more accessible.
We cannot wait another year for a coherent strategy from the government in how to tackle this.
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