Government announces £500m pandemic mental health plan

Trevor Marshallsea
·3-min read

The Government will pour £500 million into a plan to expand mental health services in response to the impact of the pandemic on the public.

The Mental Health Recovery Action Plan, to be announced on Saturday, will specifically target groups worst hit by the Covid crisis, including those with severe mental illness, young people and frontline medical staff, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said.

Under the plan, an extra £38 million will be devoted to expanding NHS talking therapies – which offers confidential treatment of conditions including anxiety and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – to support 1.6 million people in 2021-22.

Extra therapists will be trained to support people with more complex mental health needs as a result of the pandemic.

An additional £58 million will go towards enhancing community services for people with severe mental illness, including better co-ordinated support between primary and secondary care, and the embedding of specialist mental health staff in primary care.

Coronavirus – Wed Mar 17, 2021
Health Secretary Matt Hancock says the new plan aims to help those worst-affected by the pandemic (PA)

This part of the strategy would enable those with severe mental illness to access help including psychological therapies, better physical care, employment support, trauma care and support for self-harm, the DHSC said.

The Department said support for frontline workers remained a key priority, with an additional £10 million to go into supporting the mental health of the workforce after the pandemic.

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This was in addition to support put in place by NHS England, including a dedicated confidential staff support line operated by the Samaritans, and a £15 million investment to strengthen mental health support for NHS staff during the pandemic’s second wave.

The Government said the plan was part of its agenda to “build back better from the pandemic and ensure everyone is able to access the support they need”.

“Our Recovery Action Plan, backed by £500 million of funding, will accelerate the expansion of mental health services and provide people with the support they need,” Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said.

“As part of our response to this global pandemic we not only want to tackle the public health threat of coronavirus but ensure our clinicians have the resources to deal with the impact on people’s mental health.”

The strategy will also include:

– £15 million to help mental health in the most deprived local authority areas in England

– £13 million to boost services to people aged between 18-25, including university students, to “bridge the gap” between children’s and adult services

– £14 million to help educate those with severe mental illness on the importance of physical health checks, for conditions such as diabetes and heart disease

– £17 million to support recovery of the dementia diagnosis rate and tackle the backlog of appointments as a result of the pandemic

– £31 million to support learning disability and autism services, to address the diagnostic backlog as a result of the pandemic, and support intervention to prevent children and young people with learning disability, autism or both escalating into crisis

– £5 million to support suicide prevention through voluntary and community sector organisations

Julie Bentley, CEO of Samaritans, said: “These are important steps in the right direction and we are pleased to see a commitment to cross-government action and financial backing for the voluntary sector which provides critical services that help prevent suicide.”