A coordinated announcement is expected today that brings together the Departments of Health, Work and Pensions, Justice, Home and Local Government on the subject of tackling mental health. As I write the details aren’t yet clear but the emphasis will be on offering ‘cognitive behaviour therapy’ (CBT) to help try and treat and prevent mental illness, for those in school to those out of work. Our understanding is that there will be no new money, but funding will be diverted from Departments which expect to see savings as a result of upstream investment in treatment.
The impact will be in the detail. As 2020health are currently running a project on ‘work as a health outcome’ we are particularly interested in this announcement. What we want to see is a much greater awareness of how important work is for health, as well as health for work. Enabling people to have control over their ‘working lives’ through rapid support given to them in times of ill health is a worthy investment for the economy, quite apart from being the right thing to do. So far reports of CBT support for the ‘medium term’ unemployed don’t sound promising – it needs to be offered as soon as someone becomes unfit for work.
But in principle this strategy is to be welcomed. In March 2009, Theresa May made a speech along similar lines, describing the DEL (departmental expenditure limits) – AME (annually managed expenditure) ‘switch’ whereby the resources to get people back to work can be found from savings in the welfare budget. Where health professionals fit in to the plans to be launched today, but the currently the challenge remains: how to reconnect the outcome of being able to work with healthcare practice.