NHS Long Term Plan: the most important yet


The Long Term plan was first published in January 2019. This ten-year forward plan highlights the opportunities and challenges facing our National Health Service and offers an insight it's future. In this blog, Mark Yates, Director of Operations at Rethink Mental Illness explains why the latest strategy is the most significant yet for people severely affected by mental illness.

Whilst the NHS regularly produces and shares planning documents, the latest – the NHS Long Term Plan – could be the most important for people severely affected by mental illness, their carers and organisations involved in the care and support of people with severe mental illness in a generation. If we are not careful, the significance and the potential impact of the plan could be lost in the context of the shared challenges we all face in the short-term.

Fundamentally, we are all working towards to the same aim: supporting the recovery of people severely affected by mental illness to lead fulfilling lives. The next stage of the roll-out of the NHS Long Term Plan and the Community Mental Health Framework (CMHF) in March can be the catalyst to change the way things were done before and to help different services more closely with one another.

For decades, people severely affected by mental illness have struggled to get the care they need. The Community Mental Health Framework has the potential to change this status quo for people with moderate to severe mental illness, as well as those with complex needs.

By 2023/ 24, Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships (STPs) / Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) will be delivering treatment to people with moderate to severe mental illness using integrated, place-based approaches, underpinned by new investment.

The involvement of local authorities in this process and the availability of the services they provide will be key to the success of the CMHF – clinical support is only one piece of the puzzle. We know that this moment comes at an extremely challenging time for local authorities, but it also opens up new opportunities for collaboration.

We and other providers have seen an increasing risk that local authority funded services could be significantly reduced in scope, or lost altogether, from the start of the next financial year. The expertise of those services, its staff and users, as well as the ties they have with local communities, will be vital in shaping and supporting the roll-out of the CMHF.

Our briefing - supported by the Association on Mental Health Providers - comes with an ask for local authorities to protect existing services that support people with a mental illness, as they make difficult decisions, ahead of the next stage of the Long Term Plan. The ask, crucially, also comes with an offer.

At a national level, we will continue to make the case for investment in local authority mental health social care budgets. At a local one, to help local authorities engage in this process of change, we will be developing a briefing and webinar in the new year on how local authorities can collaborate with the NHS and providers on the roll-out of the CMHF. Our briefing sets all this out in more detail. The coming year could be a hugely significant one for the people we represent. Rethink Mental Illness will work collaboratively and constructively with all involved to make more of this opportunity.