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Links between poor mental health and the economy are set to come under close scrutiny in the West Midlands after a special commission was established to examine the key issues.




The crucial role of chairing the commission has been handed to MP Norman Lamb, who as Care Minister under the Conservative-Liberal Democrat administration won plaudits for the way he championed mental health issues.

Mental health and the economy


The West Midlands Commission on Mental Health panel has been established by the West Midlands Combined Authority, which is a body that promotes and co-ordinates regional cooperation between councils across large parts of central England. 

Key figures will sit on it including Geraldine Strathdee, National Clinical Director for Mental Health, NHS England and Professor Kevin Fenton, Director of Health and Wellbeing, Public Health England.

The panel will look at links between mental health and the economy in the West Midlands with a longer-term vision that some of the findings may have a wider, national, application.

Remit of new panel


Geographical areas covered by the authority are Dudley, Birmingham, Coventry, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton and it is expected the commission’s work will take about nine months, though specific details of its remit have yet to be published.

However, it is expected that a significant area of focus could be on examining how public services could be incentivised to improve mental health, which in turn could promote employment and growth but reduce welfare costs as well.

Opportunity to make a difference


The decision to establish the commission was triggered after evidence emerged that poor mental health and wellbeing were driving demand for public services in that area of care, and were having “a negative impact on the economy.”

Mr Lamb, whose ministerial responsibilities included adult social care, integration and mental health, praised the authorities in the West Midlands for taking the bold step in setting up the initiative and described it as a “really interesting and exciting opportunity to make a difference for those with mental ill health.”

The NHS Five Year Forward View has already indicated that mental health problems account for a high number of benefit claims and that people with long-standing mental health issues may suffer when it comes to securing work.

Paul Maubach, chief executive of Dudley CCG, said the panel would “look at how public services can be transformed to reduce impact of poor mental health and wellbeing.

Recognition as a champion for mental health funding


For Mr Lamb, it has been a challenging few months. As one of only eight Liberal Democrats to survive his party’s poor performance during the May general election, and having lost his Cabinet role and been defeated in the Lib-Dem leadership race, Mr Lamb has returned to the back benches and is to continue to tackle issues that are of specific interest to him. 

As a minister and MP, he spoke openly of his interests in mental health, often personally, reflecting on the difficulties his son and family had faced in dealing with mental health issues. 

During his ministerial role, he was recognised widely for the power of his voice in mental health issues and worked to deliver equality in funding between mental and physical health services within the NHS. 

Mr Lamb also proved popular in the sector through his work on the Care Act.

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