NEWS: Mental health of NHS staff key to government plans to reduce cases by 2021

The NHS should be an ‘exemplar’ in creating a mentally healthy workplace for its staff; reducing stress and improving wellbeing, supporting staff who develop mental health problems and welcoming them back to work when they are ready, Health Education England has said.

Recommendations are in its report aimed at supporting delivery of the government’s raft of ambitious plans for mental health provision by 2021.

The government’s implementation plan for the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health for the NHS in England 2017 to 2021, was launched in 2016. It took forward recommendations from the mental health taskforce's independent report chaired by Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind. These include commitments to reduce suicides nationally by 10%, treat at least 70,000 additional young people and children and provide access to psychological therapies for 1.5m more people suffering from common mental health problems. The government has pledged to provide £1bn of funding per year by 2020/21.

But HEE’s report stresses that ‘the vision set out in the 5YFV was not just about managing demand better – the ambition is to reduce demand by preventing the forecast rise in mental health problems.’

To tackle the predicted rise, the NHS must address the mental health of its staff it says, as well as equip public health workforce, including those working in primary care and in health and social care, with more skills in mental health prevention training.

“We must recognise and tackle the stigma that still exists about mental illness within the NHS in general and mental health services in particular. We need to make it easier for mental health staff to ask for and receive help, and every employer should sign up to Time to Change5 or similar,” it says.

Photograph: iStock / FangXiaNuo

By 2030 it is estimated there could be as many as two million more people in the UK with a mental health problem than there are today.

Each year, the NHS loses more than 10,000 mental health staff.

Professor Ian Cumming, Chief Executive, Health Education England said: “We are pleased to be endorsing this important concordat for mental health. We will endeavour to build the capacity and capability across our workforce to help prevent mental health problems and promote good mental health.

“We are committed to supporting local authorities, policy makers, NHS clinical commissioning groups and other commissioners, service providers, employers and the voluntary and community sector to adopt this Concordat and its approach.”

The recommendations were made in Stepping forward to 2020/21:The mental health workforce plan for England published in July. HEE has followed up with an action plan for mental health prevention training for staff in a report issued in August.