Coordination for mental health – will it work?

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.

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About Julia Manning

Julia Manning is a social pioneer, writer, campaigner and commentator. Formerly a clinical optometrist specialising in diabetes and visual impairment, she is the founder and Director of 2020health, an independent, social enterprise Think Tank whose aim is to Make Health Personal and Social. 2020health has through research, events and campaigning influenced opinion and action in fields as diverse as bioethics, alcohol, emerging technologies, fraud, education, consumer technology and vaccination. In 2014, 2020health were founding partners of the Health Tech and You Awards with Axa PPP and the Design Museum. Since 2016, 2020health has increasingly focused on digital health and public health in the community. Julia is a Fellow of the RSA and now also a part-time PhD student at the UCL Interaction Centre, studying the use of digital technology for stress management in the workplace. Julia has shared 2020health's research widely in the media (BBC News, ITV, Channel 5 News, BBC 1′s The Big Questions & Victoria Derbyshire, BBC Radio 4 Today, PM and Woman's Hour, LBC) and has taken part in debates and contributed to BBC’s Newsnight, Panorama, You and Yours and ITV’s The Week.
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