A cross-governmental action plan has set out a framework for the next decade of mental health policy - but without targets or a funding commitment.

The New Horizons strategy, which replaces the old national service framework, emphasises the importance of early intervention, mental health promotion and reducing stigma.

Our aim is to build on recent achievements, [while] helping to prevent mental health problems from developing in the first place

It contains pledges from government departments including the Department of Health, Ministry of Justice, Department for Work and Pensions, and Department for Children, Schools and Families.

Initiatives such as urban allotments, reading groups and computer training are highlighted as examples of good practice.

National director for mental health in England Louis Appleby told HSJ the scale of the financial challenges facing the public sector meant it had not been possible to set out how much money would be needed to implement the actions. But he said the aspirations were achievable and would provide value for money.

There was “no point calling for things everyone knows wouldn’t have money behind them”, Professor Appleby said.

He admitted there was little evidence on how much money the policies may save.

A ministerial committee, led by care services minister Phil Hope, will oversee progress on the actions pledged by each department. For example, the Ministry of Defence is working on access to mental healthcare for service and ex-service personnel, and the Home Office has an action plan to reduce violence against women and girls.

However, there are no new targets or obligations to carry out the document’s commitments.

Professor Appleby said bringing mental health services into the 18 weeks referral to treatment target “didn’t make sense”, because people often needed immediate access to services.

Mr Hope said: “Our aim is to build on recent achievements, [while] helping to prevent mental health problems from developing in the first place.”

The NHS Confederation welcomed the document and called on the government to put its words into action, for example by developing a strong public mental health strategy and improving the links between mental and physical healthcare.

HSJ’s conference Commissioning for Mental Health and Wellbeing is on 28 January 2010 in London. www.hsj-mhcommissioning.com