What is the future of mental healthcare?

Published: 19 April 2016

Mental health has significantly advanced in recent decades, however, for too long there has been a clear divide between care provided for physical and mental health needs. A sector which has traditionally been under budgetary constraints, The Kings Fund reported that funding for mental health services had been cut in recent years, with 40% of mental health trusts experiencing reductions in income in 2013/14 and 2014/15. However, the picture is slowly changing with more treatments becoming available and a genuine commitment for transformation in the sector, this will hopefully reduce the disparity between acute and mental healthcare in the NHS.  

There are now improved pathways to access mental health services, meaning those suffering with mental health issues no longer need to suffer in silence. As the public is gaining an increased awareness and understanding of mental health issues, support and healthcare are becoming more of a mainstream debate. According to the Mental Health Foundation it is estimated that 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem in any given year; the challenge will now be how the NHS copes with the demand on mental health services.

The creation of the independent Mental Health Taskforce is the first time a tactical and strategic approach has been bestowed on the mental health sector;  set up to create the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health for the NHS in England. It highlights the importance being placed on changing the mental health sector, which will provide better outcomes across the entire healthcare system, particularly if waiting times are significantly reduced. By addressing these key concerns we can ensure patient wellbeing will truly be the focal point of the NHS, which should also alleviate additional pressures on the acute sector. However, with a shortfall of mental health practitioners, how is the sector expected to deliver this ambitious change programme?  

So what does the future hold for mental healthcare? The NHS pledges to be able to help an extra one million people and to invest more than a billion pounds into the sector by 2020/2021.  The introduction of improved access to services, vanguard mental health sites and the integration of services are elements of the approach to improving mental healthcare. With the transformational new models of primary care for mental health, this is the biggest investment the sector has experienced in recent decades; but the true measure of success for these initiatives will only be clear in years to come.

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