The government’s mental health strategy is at risk of stalling because the necessary “basic building blocks” to make it a success are not in place, the head of the NHS Confederation has warned.
It is a year since the Department of Health published its No Health Without Mental Health strategy, which was intended to give mental health the same priority as physical health.
But the plans are being placed at risk because of the continued absence of a tariff for mental health services, a lack of outcome measures for mental health services and a need for mental health commissioning support for the new NHS structures, according to the confederation’s chief executive Mike Farrar.
He said while the government should be “commended” for the strategy, it was in danger of “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory if it does not do more to put the basic building blocks of its plans in place as soon as possible”.
He said: “The Department of Health and NHS Commissioning Board need to spend time and resources to develop a functioning mental health tariff, to produce robust outcome measures and to invest in the obvious potential future commissioners have.”
Andy Bell, deputy chief executive of the Centre for Mental Health, said: “We need to ensure that the NHS and its partners share outcome measures and payment systems that encourage a focus on early intervention and recovery, including for children and young people.”
Meanwhile, Labour peer Lord Layard has called for a mental health minister at cabinet level to drive forward the strategy and other mental health policies.
In a London School of Economics lecture on Tuesday night, he said: “Mental health lies at the root of so many of our social problems and yet it is shockingly neglected by our policy-makers. This will only change if there is a minister for mental health within the cabinet.”
Simon Lawton-Smith, head of policy at the Mental Health Foundation, backed the idea but said it “was not a new one”.
He said it was “essential” that mental health policy was joined up across government departments at cabinet level.