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Tagged In:  Mental Health

As the new Mental Health Taskforce gets its teeth into the challenge of improving services, there are some positive signs for mental health professionals.




"To help capacity and capability across the wider and specialist public health workforce in understanding and integrating mental health and wellbeing into public health."

 

That's one of the key priorities in Public Health England's Public Mental Health Leadership and Workforce Development Framework, published earlier this year. 

The promise of more support for their profession will have been music to the ears of those working in ever more challenging circumstances at the frontline, including psychiatrists, psychologists and mental health nurses. They will have been further encouraged by the recent launch of the Mental Health Workforce Project, commissioned by NHS Employers, supported by Health Education England and delivered by the Mental Health Network. The key objective of the Project is to 'consider the future of the mental health workforce within the new structure and responsibilities being bedded in across the sector'. 

In the last few years a number of strategy documents have set out plans to improve training, support and working conditions for those working in mental health jobs, including Developing the Healthcare Workforce, From Design to Delivery and the Children and Young People's Mental Health and Wellbeing Taskforce report, which was commended by the Royal College of Nursing for its promise of more investment. The NHS Five Year Forward View says that mental health, as the main cause of disability in England, is a key area for improvement.

However, progress has been slow and somewhat hampered by staff shortages. A report published in April this year by the King's Fund, Workforce Planning in the NHS, highlighted a high rate of vacancies for psychiatry consultants and quoted figures showing that the number of full-time community and inpatient psychiatric nurses fell by 15% between 2009 and 2014. The conclusion of the report's authors was that it was 'difficult to see any dramatic impact of the strategic goal to prioritise mental health other than Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT)'.

Positive moves


The launch of the Mental Health Workforce Project is not the only encouraging sign for those working in mental health. In March this year the formation was announced of a Mental Health Taskforce to map out services and priorities for the next five years. In addition, former Care Minister Norman Lamb has recently been appointed to chair a commission which will examine links between poor mental health and the economy in the West Midlands. 

There has also been strong support from the public and other health professionals. The Mental Health Taskforce has recently published results of a public engagement online survey, which attracted over 20,000 respondents. "People described wanting frontline staff across the NHS, including support staff, to have the confidence and skills to support people’s mental health needs," says the report. Responses from health professionals emphasised the 'need to improve morale and the psycho-social working environment' for mental health staff. 

The taskforce's full report will be published later this year and everyone working in mental health roles will be watching closely. As Chairman Paul Farmer put it, "The taskforce has the chance in a generation to deliver change that is achievable, urgent and necessary."
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