Helpful advice for new CEO of NHS England

We've written a response to an article in The Guardian by Rebecca Cotton, Director of Mental Health Policy for the NHS Confederation's Mental Health Network.

Rebecca's article provides some helpful advice for Simon Stevens, the incoming chief of NHS England, on what he needs to do for mental health.

Our response:

'We wish Simon Stevens well as he takes over from as Chief Executive of NHS England at a time of unparalleled challenge.  Not the least of his problems will be how to steer a course through the forecast £30 billion budget gap.  And, while one can only speculate at this stage on what course he may take, mental health must not remain the poor relation of physical health. 

In early March we heard NHS England and Monitor recommended cutting funding for mental health services by 20% more than for acute hospitals.  There can be no doubt at a time when more and more people are experiencing mental health problems and the suicide rate remains alarmingly high, that even more people will suffer and lives are likely to be lost as a result of these cuts. 

Yet – publically and officially at least – NHS England states it is firmly committed to making sure mental and physical health are treated in the same way.

The British Psychoanalytic Council is not alone in thinking something doesn’t add up.  The entire mental health sector has been united in staunch opposition to the recommended cuts.  At today’s NHS Confederation Mental Health Network conference, Norman Lamb has stated that mental health providers must challenge unfair funding and hold their ground.

Rebecca Cotton is right to point the way towards more targeted investment in mental health services.  It leads to better health outcomes and makes more long-term economic sense than more cuts.  There are areas absolutely ripe for investment.  It is generally accepted today, for instance, that the NHS’s psychological therapies programme needs to be extended to embrace a range of therapies more suited to treating people with complex mental health conditions such as personality disorders.

We hope Simon Stevens ensures that NHS England delivers on its commitment towards mental health and we are keen to know how the Government will hold NHS England to account.