Headlines: January 5th, 2006

Four leading health and social care bodies have joined forces to set out their views on mental health services over the next ten years and say the issue should be one that becomes everybody’s business. A new paper – “The Future of Mental Health: A Vision for 2015” – sets out what is dubbed a radical but realistic agenda.The paper, is published jointly by the Association of Directors of Social Services, the Local Government Association, the NHS Confederation and the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health, and says by 2015 mental well-being should be promoted in all schools and that employers should be able to compete to become ‘well-being workplaces’.

The paper also calls for talking therapies to be available routinely when they are needed along with advice remaining at work and continuing to lead an ordinary life. The organisations also want people with severe mental health conditions to have their own budgets for the services they want and an ‘associate’ to help them manage their lives.

The paper’s authors say starting immediately public services can make a big difference to the mental well-being of the whole population and to the lives of those with mental health problems. It details what can be done now and what challenges lie ahead. It says local government, the NHS and the voluntary sector share a vision and understand what needs to be done to achieve it. Jenny Goodall, the mental health strategy co-chair for the Association of Directors of Social Services said neither the importance of the vision set out in the paper nor the implementation difficulties should be underestimated but achieving services that responded to the unique needs of people with mental health problems as and when they were required would make the work worthwhile.

Angela Greatley, chief executive of the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health, said, “We want public services to make a resolution to work towards this vision of what life could be like 10 years from now. By investing in good mental health, and offering people who experience mental distress a better service, the 77 billion pound annual cost to society can be reduced and some of our nation’s starkest inequalities can be redressed.”