UK Government Urged To Invest In Mental Health – What The Reports Say

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A new report commissioned by the NHS Confederation’s Mental Health Network has stated that “the NHS is going to need two to three times its current capacity” to deal with the expected increase in mental health problems resulting from the pandemic, and calls for further government to invest in healthcare now to help with the load. 

On Private Practice Hub, we have already discussed the alarming increase in anxiety and depression across the UK, a rise in urgent eating disorder patient referrals by 60%, and issues with chronic fatigue and brain fog. We reported that since 2010, mental health beds are down 25% and with newly proposed goals by the NHS, doctors have already called for further funding to support in achieving these goals. 

The Centre For Mental Health (CMH) notes that returns on investments in the mental health sector is highest for interventions which improve and enhance mental health, but is also where the least money is currently spent. Their report points out ten key areas where strategic investment could solve the issues they have found within the mental health system and significantly benefit the lives of people with mental health difficulties and their experiences of support.

The Most Impactful Changes Called For

  1. Mental Illness vs. Mental Health 

CMH has pointed out that the government invests far more in treating mental illness than in promoting mental health – as little as 3% of mental health budgets being spent on enhancement or preventative care. They suggest that more investments should be placed in preventive services which have a higher return, and help improve the service provided to those struggling with their mental health.

  1. Waiting Lists, Staffing

The NHS has already put goals in place to improve waiting times for mental health patients, but has already been met with some pushback from doctors such as Dr Benjamin McKechnie who claimed in an open letter to the NHS that no changes to wait times could be realistically made until the issue of funding was sorted out: 

“In a system already nearing breaking point, does NHS England really believe that our inability to see patients in good time is down to a lack of targets, rather than resource and staffing shortages?”

CMH’s reports mirror this sentiment and call for investments to avoid delays in treatment after finding that one in five people wait over three months between their first and second IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) appointments, claiming that longer wait times lead to worse patient outcomes and an increased use of emergency services. 

By funnelling resources into getting the staff on board to shorten these waiting times, the NHS may be able to achieve the goals they have set out without putting excess strain on the system that is already struggling under the demand for mental health support since the pandemic.

  1. Helping Staff Recover

NHS staff such as therapists and counsellors have seen a higher rate of clients over the pandemic. With the stress from such a large scale change to everyday life paired with the increased workload has caused a wave of fatigue across all professions within mental health, causing more absences and an increased struggle to be motivated to go to work.

CMH’s findings show that a 1% increase in NHS staff absences would cost them £476,000,000 per year, and urgently suggest that an investment strategy is put in place to allow staff to recover from the psychological effects of the pandemic and commit at least 1% of absenteeism costs into that cause.

Among these main calls for funding, this report calls for changes such as:

  • A new way for mental health to be treated and classified, asking that mental health be treated simultaneously to physical health as they state “the two are synonymous”.
  • A change in the way that patient data is recorded and stored to improve patient treatment, claiming that at present it is “stored inconsistently”.
  • Further analysis on outcome measurement so that it will be easier to understand the return on investments made and understanding if money has been “well spent”. 

The BACP (British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy) has supported and welcomed the findings of this report, “We welcome a new report from the Centre for Mental Health calling for strategic government spending on mental health”, and their Four Nations Lead, Steve Mulligan had this to say: 

If the Prime Minister is serious about ‘building back better from the pandemic’ he needs to use this year’s comprehensive spending review to invest properly in counselling services, ensuring they’re accessible, sustainable and fit for the future.  The mental health impact of Covid 19 will be with us for years to come and BACP will continue to make a robust case to government to secure a suitable commitment for the counselling professions.”

It is clear that the pandemic has put enormous strain on mental health support within the NHS, but it has also shone a light on a subject still considered taboo by many and has raised awareness of the needs of the mental health industry, giving the people within it courage to stand up and ask for the support it needs, and rightfully deserves. 

Join Private Practice Hub today to be alerted to more articles and keep up with the news within therapy.This article was written by Maisie Violet Wicks, BA Hons. Have something to say? Email newsdesk@privatepracticehub.co.uk to contact us.