Response to Labour health and care policy commission inquiry into mental health
The Health and Care Policy Commission develops Labour policy and thinking on areas including the future of the NHS, mental health, public health and social care. It is currently focusing on mental health policy.
The Commission is leading a consultation on mental health policy, including parity of esteem with physical health, prevention and early intervention, and promoting awareness. The Commission published a short consultation document outlining the key challenges in these areas, and inviting submissions from the wider Labour Party and public. This document is our response to the Commission.
- NHS Providers’ members welcomed the Labour Party’s recognition that the NHS is struggling to ensure high quality, sustainable services within the current financial envelope and that further investment is urgently needed. Given the rapidly deteriorating financial position for the NHS, exacerbated by the growing pressures on mental health services from cuts to local authority budgets and social care, we would welcome a clear articulation of Labour’s views on an appropriate funding settlement for the NHS and for social care in the short and longer term.
- Labour’s dedicated focus on NHS mental health care has brought valuable scrutiny of the challenges to ensuring that parity of esteem extends beyond rhetoric to changes in policy, where the difference can be made: greater investment, improved payment systems, transparency in funding, and more joined-up local services. We have recently conducted research which shows that there is a great deal of confusion amongst providers and commissioners as to how the commitment to parity in principle translates to the funding of services on the ground, and recommend that greater transparency in funding is needed to ensure that providers are appropriately commissioned and effectively resourced to meet rapidly growing demand for mental health services.
- Labour’s recent commitment to establish a ‘whole person approach’ to health and social care was also welcome. There are several national integration and transformation programs at local health economy levels with the potential to improve local delivery of mental health services. However, as transformation programs may involve changes to the commissioning footprint, it will be important to ensure that mental health services are given strategic priority to ensure they are not disadvantaged or subsumed by these processes.
- Research shows that service redesign and integration take time to deliver and may absorb significant resources in the short term, as well as requiring careful alignment of incentives and shared understanding of priorities across the system. Our members would welcome further detail about how Labour’s integration policy would be implemented in practice.
- Phased introduction of new access and waiting times for mental health services will bring greater transparency and parity of funding, along with better outcomes and experience for service users. However, our research suggests that providers are not yet receiving sufficient funding to ensure provision that meets the access targets.