The Government has unveiled a major programme of activity to support people with mental health conditions to find, stay in and return to work.
The move by Prime Minister David Cameron in February followed the publication of a report by an independent expert panel set up by NHS England, the Mental Health Taskforce, to look into how people with mental health conditions could be better supported.
The Government’s commitments included a pledge by Cameron to invest an extra £1 billion into the NHS to help put mental and physical health provision on an equal footing.
He committed to meeting with chief executives of top UK companies to agree new workplace standards on mental health.
Cameron said: “By providing this extra £1 billion a year for mental health care, we will make sure it gets the attention in the NHS it needs.
“But I want to go even further and end the status quo that sees more than half of people with mental health conditions unable to find a job – ensuring tens of thousands are able to find or return to work over the next five years.”
The Government also committed to working with the NHS to ensure:
- a doubling of access to talking therapies for people suffering from conditions such as anxiety or depression, so 800,000 people can get support;
- 29,000 more people with mental health conditions are helped to find or stay in work;
- more mental health experts are placed in job centres;
- an extra £50 million is spent doubling the reach of individual placement and support programmes that find work for people with mental illness; and
- an extra £50 million is invested to more than double the number of employment advisers, so they are linked in to every talking therapy service in the country.
One of the key recommendations of the report, The five year forward view for mental health, was the link between work and good mental health.
The taskforce, which was chaired mental health charity Mind chief executive Paul Farmer, recommended that employment for people with mental health conditions be recognised as a health outcome and highlighted the need for more people to be able to access treatment early on so they can avoid long-term unemployment.
Farmer said: “This is a landmark moment for mental healthcare in this country, a once-in-a generation opportunity to transform services and support for people with mental health problems.”
This key recommendation was warmly welcomed by the Faculty of Occupational Medicine, although it also warned that, if the Government was serious about effecting this change, clinicians (whatever their primary specialisation or stage of their career) would need to be given more training in recognising the positive relationship between work and physical and mental health.
This, in turn, would mean more specialist training places would need to be funded, and allocated for, OH specialists.
Faculty president Dr Richard Heron said: “For most people, good work, a stable job and support in it is good for health. “This is absolutely the case for people with the common mental health problems affecting many of us at some stage in our working lives.
“Specialist support can be especially helpful when mental health and work challenges are complex. They are highly trained, occupational physicians for example spending at least four years in specialist training posts after general medical training. Over half of our specialists are over 50 years old, making the training of the next generation an urgent matter,” he added.