Mental health launch: strategy ‘will replace prejudice with opportunity’


The government has launched a new “over-arching” mental health strategy for England, with the twin aims of providing better services and improving the nation’s mental health.

The cross-government New Horizons strategy was launched alongside three linked publications around mental health and employment.

New Horizons promises that services for people with mental ill health will be “safe, accessible and personal” while “opportunity…will replace prejudice”.

But it warns that all plans arising from New Horizons would be “subject to a review of affordability”.

The strategy includes 120 cross-government actions, with measures to improve services for younger people and the transition to adult services, boost personalisation, and improve the physical healthcare of people with mental health conditions and the mental health of those in the armed forces and service veterans.

There will also be a “refreshed” strategy on suicide prevention.

A section of the strategy is devoted to tackling stigma, including a planned “summit” meeting of ministers to discuss cross-government action, and funding for a website that will allow the public to praise or complain to journalists writing about mental health.

Health secretary Andy Burnham described the strategy as “a bold statement of intent” and a “radical new approach” which “lays the foundation for further action” after a decade of record investment in mental health services.

And the prime minister, Gordon Brown, said the strategy combined “service improvement with a new partnership of central and local government, the third sector and the professions”.

Paul Jenkins, chief executive of the charity Rethink, said New Horizons could “revolutionise” services and the lives of people with severe mental health conditions, but warned that mental health budgets were vulnerable to cuts in a recession and called for government funding guarantees.

Mind said New Horizons had “broken new ground” and was “a turning point that no new government can turn back from”, but that its aim to “improve everyone’s wellbeing” should not draw attention from the poor services and lack of support in many areas.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said investment in adult mental health services had increased in real terms by 50 per cent, or £2 billion, since 2001-02, and “we cannot depend on that scale of extra investment being repeated”.

But she said the strategy demonstrates “how we can make enormous progress” through prevention, earlier intervention, innovation, collaboration and improved productivity.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Shaw, the minister for disabled people, has given the strongest sign yet that the government will act to remove a law that says MPs sectioned for at least six months must lose their seats.

He said: “It is an anachronism and it needs to be dumped. We need to find the right legislation to attach it to. I am sure that that is what we will do.”

7 December 2009

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