The Plan aims to respond to the impact of the pandemic on the public’s mental health, specifically targeting groups most impacted – including those with severe mental illness, young people, and frontline staff. Under the plan, NHS talking therapies (IAPT services) which offer confidential treatment of conditions such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD, will expand, supporting 1.6 million people to access services in 2021/22, backed by an additional £38 m, and additional therapists will be trained to support those with more complex mental health needs as a result of the pandemic.
People living with severe mental illness will also benefit from enhanced mental services in the community, backed by £58 m for what the DH&SC dubs ‘better, joined-up support between primary and secondary care’, including specialist mental health staff ‘embedded’ in primary care. The funding will accelerate expansion and transformation of community mental health services, enabling people with severe mental illnesses to access psychological therapies, improved physical health care, employment support, personalised and trauma-informed care, medicines management, and support for self-harm.
Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock, said: “Our Recovery Action Plan, backed by £500 m of funding, will accelerate the expansion of mental health services, and provide people with the support they need. As part of our response to this global pandemic, we not only want to tackle the public health threat of coronavirus, but also to ensure that our clinicians have the resources to deal with the impact on people’s mental health.”
‘One-off’ initiatives will receive funding to tackle the impact of COVID-19 on mental health and learning disability and autism services, and to support groups ‘disproportionately affected’. Funding will also be used ‘to help level up’ mental health and wellbeing across the country in England’s most deprived local authority areas, supporting prevention activities such as debt advice, carer support, outreach to people facing loneliness and isolation, youth projects, and community groups.
Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, Nadine Dorries (pictured), said: “I am acutely aware of the pandemic’s impact on the mental health and wellbeing of many. The public has shown great resilience, but some groups – including young people, and those with severe mental illness – have been impacted more than others. This funding will support these groups, both in initiatives specifically designed in the wake of the pandemic, and by enabling us to bring forward our NHS Long Term Plan commitments.”
‘One-off’, new initiatives to support mental health recovery from the pandemic include:
- £15 m to help level up mental health and wellbeing across the country through funding initiatives to promote positive mental health in the most deprived local authority areas in England - eligible local authorities will receive around £500,000 each.
- £13 m to ensure that young adults aged 18-25, including university students, are supported with tailored mental health services, helping ‘bridge the gap’ between children’s and adult services.
- £14 m to support the physical health of people living with severe mental illness –through schemes encouraging them to come forward for physical health checks to help spot the signs of conditions like diabetes and heart disease, and get their COVOD-19 vaccine.
- £17 m to support recovery of the dementia diagnosis rate, and tackle the backlog of appointments as a result of the pandemic.
- £2.5 m ‘to pilot new approaches’ to support children who have experienced complex trauma.
- £2.5 million to boost a pilot supporting offenders with significant mental health needs, ‘to divert them away from custodial sentences’, and help them to access the support they need through Mental Health Treatment Requirements.
- £31 m to support learning disability and autism services, to address the diagnostic backlog as a result of the pandemic, and support intervention to prevent children and young people with learning disability, autism, or both, escalating into crisis.
- £3 million to begin preparations for implementing the Mental Health Act Reform, increasing capacity in the workforce, and laying the groundwork for broader reforms, including testing ways to improve the quality of care and provide ‘culturally appropriate’ advocacy.
- £5 million to support suicide prevention through voluntary and community sector organisations.
The Recovery Action Plan highlights further initiatives to place mental health at the centre of government policy, including through the development and testing of a ‘Mental Health Impact Assessment’ for all new policies, and continuation of the Ministerial group examining the impacts of the pandemic on mental health and wellbeing. This group has overseen a range of cross-government initiatives, such as the Wellbeing for Education Return scheme launched last September.
In addition, all government departments are committing to promote Public Health England’s Psychological First Aid training to their workers and volunteers, to develop their skills and confidence in providing support to those affected by COVID-19. These free online training modules help people develop their skills and confidence in providing key psychological support on issues such as job worries, bereavement, or isolation.