This report of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Mental Health inquiry into the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health (FyFV-MH) comes at a critical time: halfway through the FyFV-MH and as we await the NHS long-term plan for mental health.
One of the great strengths of the FyFV-MH was that it drew on a range of expertise. It is thanks to everyone who took part in our APPG inquiry— through over 70 written submissions, two oral evidence sessions, a focus group of service users and carers and a visit organised to the Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust—that in a smaller way we have also been able to draw on the wealth of experience of those who care about mental health. Passion and determination to make services better shone through all the evidence we received. We weren’t just told about problems – we were given clear solutions that could quickly start to make a difference. Underpinning it all was a sense of urgency. Until very recently mental health was forgotten and under-recognised. It is a mark of how far we have come that all political parties are committed to parity of esteem. The message that we heard strongly during this inquiry is that now is the time to redouble our efforts to deliver on that commitment.
During this inquiry we’ve heard inspiring stories of success where new services have changed people’s lives for the better, particularly in perinatal, improving access to psychological therapies (IAPT) and early intervention in psychosis. All these areas have benefited from a significant boost in funding, proving that well-targeted investment works. All those involved should feel proud of the lives changed by improved services. But clearly there is still much more to do. We have identified three key themes, under which we have grouped our 23 recommendations. Firstly, investment in specialist services has been welcome, but core mental health services for adults severely affected by mental illness, whose needs fall outside specialist services, must now be a priority. Core mental health services, such as community mental health teams, are vital to stop people reaching crisis point. With rising demand, urgent investment is needed in these non-condition specific services.
Secondly, addressing workforce challenges is vital to improve mental health services. The increase in demand since the start of the FyFV-MH means there is a need to re-evaluate and adjust current workforce plans. Thirdly, there are important improvements to make around oversight and making mental health a collective responsibility across government and arms-length bodies (ALBs). NHS England has demonstrated with its mental health dashboard that better transparency and oversight improve services and accountability, but there is far more to do to make mental health a priority for all the government departments and agencies. The FyFV-MH never intended to solve every problem in our mental health system, but where it has focused it has made a difference.
We know change is possible because we have seen success since 2016. The FyFV-MH was a starting point on the road to parity of esteem. We hope this report will inform the next steps on that journey.
Click here to read the full report.