Measures to end unequal mental health treatment kickstarted by PM

New measures to overhaul urgently mental health laws and end the unequal treatment faced by ethnic minority groups have been set out by Prime Minister Theresa May on Monday 17 June 2019.

The government will take forward key recommendations from Sir Simon Wessely’s independent review of the Mental Health Act, which found black adults are approximately four times more likely than white adults to be detained under the Act.

The Prime Minister also confirmed that a White Paper will be published by DHSC and MoJ before the end of the year in response to the review. This will set out the steps necessary to provide greater dignity and better care for all those treated under the Mental Health Act, and to tackle inequalities in the mental health care system.

Healthcare bosses and senior members of the Independent Review of the Mental Health Act attended a roundtable with the Prime Minister at Number 10 Downing Street this afternoon. They discussed the government’s plans for early action to reform mental health legislation and services to particularly benefit ethnic minority groups, which include:

  • The first ever Race Equality Framework will ensure NHS mental healthcare providers work with their local communities to improve the ways in which patients access and experience treatment, and ensure data on equality of access is monitored at board level and acted on;
  • Working with Black African and Caribbean community groups alongside others to develop a White Paper formally setting out a response to Sir Simon’s review;
  • Further work towards eradicating the use of police cells as a place to detain people experiencing mental illness ahead of banning it in law, building on the Prime Minister’s work to end this practice for under-18s
  • Launching a pilot programme of culturally-sensitive advocates in partnership with local authorities and others, to identify how best to represent the mental health needs of ethnic minority groups;

  • A partnership between the Care Quality Commission and Equality and Human Rights Commission to review how they can use their regulatory powers to better support equality of access to mental health services; and
  • An open call for research into how different ethnic minority groups experience mental health treatment and how this can be improved – to be launched later this year by the National Institute for Health Research.

Prime Minister Theresa May said:

“Mental illness can affect us all, but the shocking evidence that black people are much more likely to be detained under the Mental Health Act shows that we need urgent action to address inequalities in our healthcare system.

“Today’s measures will drive forward an important conversation about how we best look after people from ethnic minority backgrounds living with mental health conditions and make sure their needs are met.”

These commitments come alongside a wide-ranging series of prevention measures announced today by the Prime Minister to make sure people have the support they need to look after their mental health. The package includes training for all new teachers so they can spot the signs of mental health issues and updated professional standards for social workers across England to increase their knowledge and skills when dealing with mental illness.

Monday 17 June 2019 marks one year since the Prime Minister announced a historic cash funding boost for the health service, driving the largest expansion of mental health services in a generation under the NHS Long-Term Plan.

Attending the roundtable were:

o    Prime Minister Theresa May

o    Professor Sir Simon Wessely, Chair, Independent Review of the Mental Health Act

o    Steven Gilbert OBE, Vice-Chair, Independent Review of the Mental Health Act

o    Sir Mark Hedley, Vice-Chair, Independent Review of the Mental Health Act

o    Baroness Julia Neuberger Vice-Chair, Independent Review of the Mental Health Act

o    Jacqui Dyer MBE, Mental Health Equalities Champion

o    Paul Farmer CBE, Chief Executive, Mind

o    Kate King MBE, Working Group Member of the Independent Review of the Mental Health Act

o    Dr Shubulade Smith CBE, Clinical Director, National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health

o    Health Secretary Matt Hancock

o    Simon Stevens, Chief Executive, NHS England

  • Today’s announcement builds on the Prime Minister’s work over the last three years which together represent the biggest transformation in mental health for well over a generation.  This includes:

o    Under the NHS Long-Term Plan, committing £2.3 billion more a year in real terms for mental health, growing the budget for mental health faster than the overall NHS budget – with funding for Children’s and Young People’s mental health rising faster still.

o    Commissioning the Stevenson Farmer review in 2017, to help employers know how to better support people to be mentally healthy at work

o    Making mental health education a mandatory part of the school curriculum for the first time

o    Launching the Prevention Concordat for Better Mental Health in August 2017 to support action across the sector to drive work in local communities to address health inequalities.

o    Banning police cells being used as a “place of safety” for under-18s with mental illness

o    The appointment of the first ever Minister for Suicide Prevention to reduce the devastating impact of suicide and the publication of the first ever cross government Suicide Prevention Workplan

o    Investing up to £1.8 million to support the Samaritans helpline and £2 million for the Zero Suicide Alliance 

o    Delivering mental health first aid training to 2,000 secondary schools, with another 1,000 due to start training in the summer. 

o    Publishing the Transforming Children and Young People’s Mental Health Provision Green Paper which committed to introducing world-leading new mental health support teams to work with schools and colleges.

Prime Ministers Press Office 17 June 2019

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