• NHS England to offer support to STPs not doing mental health “justice”
  • Claire Murdoch says some STPs have “beautiful” plans for mental health, but others do not
  • After contract negotiations for 2017-19 are completed, her team will begin working with STPs to improve mental health plans
  • Warns contracts must include commitment to increase mental health funding

Sustainability and transformation plan footprints that have not “done justice” to mental health will be offered support next year, NHS England’s national mental health director has said.

Claire Murdoch said after the 2017-19 contracting negotiations finish this month, her team will begin trying to help STPs improve their plans for the sector.



Some STPs ‘say mental health is important and don’t mention it again’, Claire Murdoch said

Ms Murdoch, who is also chief executive of Central and North West London Foundation Trust, said some of the STPs submitted to NHS England in October had very good plans, but others needed additional support.

Speaking at HSJ’s Transforming Mental Health conference last week, Ms Murdoch said: “We absolutely have to make sure mental health is a golden thread running through these [STPs].

“Some of the first iterations have managed that beautifully, others less so. There are a couple which say mental health is important and don’t mention it again.

“We are going to get the contract negotiations over, then early next year work with the STPs which have not done the work justice around mental health.”

She said she did not want to distract commissioners and providers from negotiating their contracts, so will wait until after 23 December – the national deadline for signing contracts – before beginning to work with them on their STPs.

Ms Murdoch has previously said NHS England will take action in areas where funding pledged for mental health services is not reaching the front line and plans that neglect mental health should not be approved.

However, she also told the conference she wants to know which areas are not meeting the mental health investment standard – to raise overall mental health spending by the same proportion as clinical commissioning group allocation increases – in the current contract negotiations.

Ms Murdoch said the next two years are a vital time for implementing the recommendations of the Mental Health Taskforce, as funding for expanding services starts to be distributed.

She added: “My worry at the moment is people say ‘well, it’s inevitable, we would all love to do this stuff but actually there’s no money in the system, we are worried about A&E, throw us a few quid and we will do what we can’.

“It’s a big ask but it’s possible. It’s deliverable. I want to know commissioners and providers are getting very serious about delivering this.

“We have to look at this differently, a small percentage in those two year contracts now can make a huge difference.

“I want to know about any area where there’s a gap between what’s on the table on offer and what the guidance says.”