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Mental healthcare improvement requires resources, says BMA

The BMA says a government action plan to drive up NHS mental healthcare standards will only work if combined with more resources.

Earlier this week, the Department of Health published a plan that lays out 25 priority areas in which mental health and care services are required to take action over the next two years.

BMA consultants committee specialty lead for psychiatry Gary Wannan said the move was ‘laudable’, with a welcome focus on ensuring mental healthcare is seen as equal to physical healthcare.

The BMA has been calling for such parity for a number of years.

However, he cautioned that Whitehall was asking for more at a time when mental health services were facing particularly deep cuts, even compared to the rest of the NHS.

He said: ‘It is encouraging that mental health is being seen as a priority for the government, but to bring in these changes, the sector needs better resources — 25 is an ambitious number of areas to produce change in.

‘In order for the government to drive these changes — many of which are very welcome — there will need to be an increase in resources, rather than the current decrease.

‘This is especially pertinent considering at the same time that the NHS — including mental health — is facing an increased bureaucratic and regulatory burden.’

Financial incentives

Under the plan, the most effective mental health services will be financially rewarded.

From next year, waiting-time limits for mental health patients will be introduced, although the specific details will be decided when NHS England has finished gathering information on current waiting times.

Up to £43m from the Care and Support Specialised Housing Fund will be invested in pilot housing schemes for people with mental health problems.

Chief executive of mental health charity Mind, Paul Farmer, said: ‘We are pleased to see a clear focus on giving mental health and physical health equal priority, and continued recognition that mental health goes way beyond the responsibility of the NHS.

‘The government must not underestimate the scale of the challenge it faces and needs to ensure that adequate resources are available to make these bold aims a reality.’

In a speech on Monday, deputy prime minister Nick Clegg said the government wanted the NHS, mental health sector and wider society to ‘champion change’ and transform attitudes.

Read Closing the Gap: Priorities for Essential Change in Mental Health