A group of mental health experts including academics, health practitioners, charity bosses and ‘lived experience’ experts have called on the Government to reinstate the cancelled 10-year Mental Health Strategy.
This follows the publication of a new Report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on a Fit and Healthy Childhood: The Major Conditions Strategy: A 10-year failure for Mental Health.
In a letter to be hand-delivered to 10 Downing Street on Thursday 20th July, 56 mental health leaders have asked Rishi Sunak to reverse his Government’s decision to scrap the 10-year Mental Health Strategy that was scheduled for publication this year.
In 2022, the Government launched a call for evidence to help them produce a long-awaited 10-year strategy to address an alarming rise in mental illnesses across the UK. However, in January 2023, Health Secretary Steve Barclay, in a shock announcement to the House of Commons, stated that the 10-Year Plan was being scrapped. Instead, mental ill-health was to be rolled into a new ‘Major Conditions Strategy’ which would address several physical health problems such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, dementia, muscular skeletal diseases and respiratory diseases.
This move disappointed the mental health sector, who objected to the abandonment of a much-needed strategy to level up mental healthcare; long considered a ‘Cinderella service’.
“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.”
Says Professor Rory O’Connor of the Suicide Research lab at Glasgow University. “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.”
In February, 14 mental health charities wrote an open letter to the Prime Minster Rishi Sunak calling for a dedicated strategy for mental health. Now, this Report provides the evidence that shows why this is needed.
“Good mental health is essential if everyone in our living and working society is to thrive and prosper,” says Chair of the APPG Steve McCabe, MP for Birmingham.
“This was the resounding message from over 5,000 individuals and organisations in response to the Government’s recent Public Consultation on wellbeing and we are proud to present that case in our Report.
Abandoning a ten-year Mental Health Strategy and making mental health just one among others in a new Major Conditions Strategy leaves people who have a mental illness with under-resourced and under-staffed services, and subject to diagnosis and treatment that do not benefit from the well-funded research base supporting many physical illnesses.
Our six-point Plan for Mental Health addresses the inequalities and disparities in mental health provision; banishing centuries of stigma and laying the foundations of a truly ‘whole person’ health service.
There could be no better way to mark the 75th birthday of our beloved NHS and no better tribute to the ambition of our 21st century United Kingdom if all its citizens, whatever their circumstances, unite in resolve to make that fresh start happen.”
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