Home / Mental Health / Understanding UK Policy Towards Mental Health

Understanding UK policies on any topic can be complicated, but when it comes to the complexities of mental health issues in children and adults, the latest policies can be even more difficult to get to grips with. However, as the UK makes strides to provide improved support for mental health problems, it couldn’t be more important to understand what’s new about the latest government plans.
If you haven’t had the opportunity to read the newest Mental Health Policy in England yet, then our overview of the main policies will help you understand the new direction the UK is taking towards mental health.

UK Policy and the NHS

The NHS is an important aspect of the latest UK policy towards mental health. Two of the main aspirations of the NHS are the achievement of a ‘parity of esteem’ and the continuation of the NHS Five Year Forward View, which also has goals on par with the ‘parity of esteem’.
The achievement of a ‘parity of esteem’ means creating an equal value between mental health services and physical health services; this is also a long-term aim of the government. Objectives for achieving this goal have been included within past and current NHS mandates.
The NHS Five Year Forward was originally published in 2014 and covers ‘parity of esteem’ as well as other objectives, such as reducing waiting times. In 2016, The Five Year Forward View for Mental Health was also produced for the NHS, and covers multiple recommendations for 2020/21, these include: cross-government action, parity of esteem, and a focus on reducing inequality.

Mental Health Act 1983 Reform

A review of the Mental Health Act 1983 was requested in late 2017 to improve certain areas of the legislation, such as recommendations to help with ethnic inequality amongst detainees and the increasing number of people detained. Amongst many, the review highlighted concerns over ethnic inequality, staff behaviour, and ‘nearest relative’, as well as stressing the importance of mental health service improvement.
The government are also striving to change the amount and type of force used in mental health settings with The Mental Health Units (Use of Force) Bill. This includes a reduction in the reliance on restraint and the prevention of the use of face-down restraint.

The Promise of Improved Services

A number of objectives have been put forward by the government in the 2018-2019 mandate, primarily surrounding the achievement of services every day of the week; this would include mental health care for emergencies being accessible 24/7.
The policies further include continued progress towards the proposed improvement to waiting times in 2014. Waiting times are set to see a reduction by 2020/21 for mental health services, including fast treatment for children with eating disorders.
Changes to what constitutes a place of safety for under-18s and reductions to detainable times were also included within the UK policy.

Ongoing Strategies

Both Scotland and Wales have ongoing 10-year strategies for mental health service improvements. The Scottish mental health strategy was announced in 2017 and focuses on early intervention and improvements to service access, while the Welsh Mental Health Strategy was published in 2012 and focuses on many areas, including the development of an integrated network, reducing the stigma attached to mental health, and prevention.
In Northern Ireland, strategies are focused on suicide awareness and prevention, as well as the growing importance of services for mental health, which is outlined in the Health and Wellbeing 2026 policy.

Improvement to services is one of the main themes within the government’s latest policies, addressing the growing need for effective and fast service access for adults and children in the UK.
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