The department has made improving mental health, and treating mental illness, a key priority for NHS England. One of the core objectives in the department’s Mandate to NHS England is to put mental health on a par with physical health, and close the health gap between people with mental health problems and the population as a whole.
The Mandate also makes clear that everyone who needs it should have timely access to evidence based services. This will involve extending and ensuring more open access to the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programmes, in particular for children and young people, and for those out of work.
Ministers are committed to ensuring access to services and waiting times are also on a par with physical health and believe that implementing new access and/or waiting time standards is vital to do this. The Mandate asks NHS England to work with the Department of Health and other stakeholders to develop a range of costed options to implement access and waiting standards for mental health services from April 2015, with a phased approach depending on affordability.
Despite the good progress that has been made in expanding the IAPT service, new challenges have emerged. Because of the initial success of the programme, more people are being offered the service and waiting lists have built up in some areas.
The department is keen to make sure mental health is treated equally with physical health, and this means ensuring that people do not experience excessively long waits for treatment. Treating mental and physical health conditions in a coordinated way is essential to supporting recovery. Our aim is to improve the numbers of people who can access help and reduce waiting times across mental health services.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has recommended a range of psychological therapeutic interventions in its clinical guidelines, including cognitive behavioural therapy, interpersonal therapy, brief dynamic interpersonal therapy, couple therapy for depression and counselling for depression. The government is supporting the IAPT programme through an investment of £400 million from 2011 to 2015, with an additional £54 million for the Children and Young People’s IAPT programme. This funding will extend the range and reach of evidence-based services.
The IAPT programme is currently working with departmental strategic partners, including the Race Equality Foundation, African Health Policy Network, Families, Friends and Travellers and Faith Action, to promote the use of psychological therapies for the treatment of depression and anxiety disorders to people from urban and rural ethnic communities around England. The work includes workshops, training to support people to promote services, and the production of DVDs to support the promotion activity, and is being evaluated.
The ‘We Still Need to Talk’ report was compiled by the ‘We Need to Talk’ coalition, a group of
mental health charities, professional organisations, Royal Colleges and service providers.