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News Release

Will mental health reforms go far enough?

Emma Glynn, Director in  JLL’s Healthcare team, examines whether the Prime Minister’s announcements will address the sector’s needs

London, 20th January 2017 - The pledge and policies outlined by the Prime Minister to overhaul Mental Health services in the UK is as a step in the right direction for the sector. There is clearly increasing recognition by politicians around the need for greater parity between mental and physical health as the extent of how many people it affects becomes more apparent as well as the financial cost.

In her speech Theresa May has rightly focussed on employers as well as providers of services and schools, recognising that failure to cope adequately with mental health issues costs the UK some 4.5% of its GDP. The increased focus on community care and the reallocation of funds for online services are also helpful steps forward. However, this may only be a tinkering round the edges if there is not an injection of extra funding to counter the long term underinvestment in Mental Health services across the UK.

Reports suggest that over 25% of adults have at some point been diagnosed with at least one mental health problem. By 2030 it is estimated that there will be approximately two million more adults in the UK with mental health problems than there were in 2013. In the meantime however funding for Mental Health services has struggled to keep up. 40% of Mental Health Trusts have reported year on year falls in funding since 2011. There has also been a significant long term reduction in the number of psychiatric beds in England resulting both from the need to replace old and unsuitable stock, together with a move from large outdated hospitals to smaller purpose built premises. This is in addition to systemic transformation including the development of specialist community teams, which promised to reduce demand on inpatient services.

The Commission on Acute Adult Psychiatric Care (2015) found that of the 119 wards that responded to a recent survey, 91% were operating above the recommended level of 85%. Demand therefore appears to be outstripping supply for urgent care in mental health services with the lack of beds having an adverse effect on the completion of assessments for people detained in places of safety and an increase in patients being transferred to facilities outside their area, sometimes hundreds of miles away. The problem is particularly acute in respect of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS.)

The new policy reforms have placed a welcome spotlight on this important area and is a signal that the government recognises mental health as a priority. As an industry we need to ensure that the lobbying continues for an equitable system where mental health achieves parity to physical health in terms of funding as well as understanding.