7 March 2016 - New commitment made to transform Greater Manchester’s record of poor mental health

A ‘transformational commitment’ is being made to improving mental health services in Greater Manchester, with a new approach to prevention expected to tackle the root causes of mental illness at an earlier stage.

Greater Manchester currently suffers from some of the poorest levels of mental health in the country despite spending £600million on delivering mental health services every year. However, with mental health and wellbeing being such an important factor across all forms of ill health, it is estimated that the wider economic cost of mental health to Greater Manchester is approximately £3.5bn.

The ambitious plans will put a far greater emphasis on prevention through working closely with schools and community groups to tackle the root causes of poor mental health at an early age and by improving and simplifying services available to adults should they need them. 

The new strategy comes as the region prepares to take charge of a £6billion health and social care budget from April 1 2016. With the increased freedoms of devolution, a new GM-wide approach is being brought to mental health services as skilled, healthy and independent people are crucial to Greater Manchester’s future growth and prosperity.

According to Jim Battle, Chair of the Strategic Mental Health Partnership (and GM’s Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner), the plans have the potential to harness a new relationship between public services, citizens, communities and businesses by bringing a change in approach to the understanding of mental health, both at home and in the workplace. 

He said: “The mental health and wellbeing of our residents is everybody’s business and should be seen as equally important as physical health. That is why this strategy is so important.

“We’ve already made great strides in transforming mental health crisis care. By reducing demand on emergency services and ensuring that when we are vulnerable we get the right care from the right people at the right time.  The strategy aims to make sure we can step in to help and assist much earlier to address people’s mental health problems before they reach crisis point.”

The ambitious plans will develop a new approach that will intervene earlier in children’s and young people’s services and support adults with mental health problems to improve their general health and find employment.

Mental health will become a feature on the education curriculum while further training will be provided to employers and communities to improve understanding and awareness of mental health issues, helping to remove the stigma and improve openness.

In a wide-ranging series of actions, it will also support those most vulnerable in society to reduce the risk of developing poor mental health, and those with existing mental health conditions from deteriorating further.

The GM Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy highlights four priority areas:

  • Prevention – A patient focussed approach to improving outcomes, with greater awareness of signs of ill health and clear avenues for support and intervention. 
  • Access - Responsive and clear arrangements for connecting people to the support they need at the right time
  • Integration - Equality in available services across the 10 boroughs of Greater Manchester through collaborative working across public sector bodies & voluntary organisations
  • Sustainability – Improvement in financial and clinical sustainability to ensure value for money GM-wide

Within these four pillars of the strategy, 32 strategic initiatives have been identified, the implementation of which will transform services in Greater Manchester. Seven of these have been specifically identified as priority initiatives for April 2016 onwards:

  1. Suicide prevention
  2. Workplace and employment support
  3. Introducing 24/7 mental health services and 7 day community provision for children and young people
  4. Consistent implementation of the 24/7 mental health service and 7 day community provision for adults across GM
  5. Integrated commissioning across Greater Manchester organisations involved in delivering mental health services
  6. Integrated monitoring, standards and key performance indicators for public service organisations
  7. Developing a less complicated health and wellbeing structure to making is easier for people to access and navigate services

The strategy, which is reflected in NHS England’s recent five year commitment, will improve the mental health and wellbeing of individuals and their families, with support from communities, employers and services that maximise independence and choice.

Improving the mental health and wellbeing of Greater Manchester residents is integral to tackling the wider ambitions of devolution, according to Lord Peter Smith, GMCA lead for health and social care.

He said: “We have made a clear commitment as part of devolution to develop a new approach to mental health services by placing the individual and families at the heart of the system.

“The consequences of poor mental health are a growing problem for Greater Manchester and it is imperative we start to tackle the root causes to ensure a brighter and more prosperous future for the region, and importantly, the individuals and families affected.”

The strategy comes as residents of Greater Manchester are being asked share their struggles and successes struggles and successes in making healthy lifestyle choices, with mental health, stress and overall wellbeing central to discussions.

To have your say, please visit www.takingchargetogether.org.uk