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 entrepreneur, writer, campaigner and commentator. She is based in London and is the founder and Chief Executive of 2020health, an independent, social enterprise Think Tank whose aim is to Make Health Personal. Through networking, technology, research, relationships and campaigning 2020health has influenced opinion and action in fields as diverse as bioethics, alcohol, emerging technologies, fraud, education, consumer technology and vaccination. Julia studied visual science at City University and became a member of the College of Optometrists in 1991. Her career has included being a visiting lecturer at City University, a visiting clinician at the Royal Free Hospital, working with south London Primary Care Trusts and as a Director of the UK Institute of Optometry. She specialised in diabetes (University of Warwick Certificate in Diabetic Care) and founded Julia Manning Eyecare in 2004, a home and prison visiting practice for people with mental and physical disabilities using the latest digital technology, which she sold to Healthcall (now part of Specsavers) in 2009. Experiences of working in the NHS, contributing to policy development, raising two children in the inner-city and standing in the General Election in Bristol in 2005 led to Julia forming 2020health at the end of 2006. Julia is a regular guest on TV and radio shows such as BBC News, ITV’s Daybreak/ GMB, Channel 5 News, BBC 1′s The Big Questions, BBC Radio, LBC and has taken part in debates and contributed to BBC’s Newsnight, Panorama, You and Yours and ITV’s The Week. She is mum to a rugby-mad son, a daughter passionate about Shakespeare, and wife of a comprehensive school assistant head-teacher. She loves gardening, ballet, Zimbabwe, her Westies Skye and Angus, is an honorary research associate at UCL and a Fellow of the RSA.
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