Policy watch

Publication Date13 May 2010
AuthorSimon Lawton‐Smith
SubjectHealth & social care
Mental Health and Social Inclusion • Volume 14 Issue 2 • May 2010 © Pier Professional Ltd 3
much joy to public services, especially the NHS and
local authorities. So whatever their plans for developing
mental health services these could immediately face a
funding barrier.
In terms of specifics, the Draft Manifesto refers
to the figure of £77 billion as the annual cost of poor
mental health in England alone (a now rather dated
2003 estimate from the Sainsbury Centre for Mental
Health). Much of this – some £23 billion – is due to the
cost of working days lost. Accordingly, the one specific
manifesto commitment on mental health is to ‘remove the
rules preventing welfare-to-work providers and employers
purchasing services from mental health trusts so that more
unemployed people and at-risk workers can be helped’. In
focusing on employment as its key promise on mental
health, it echoes Labour’s own recent new strategy on
mental health and employment (Cabinet Office, 2009;
Department for Work and Pensions & the Department
of Health, 2009) and demonstrates cross-party agreement
about the importance of work for people who may
experience mental health problems.
The Draft Manifesto also more generally promises
that any cost-effective treatment can be made available
through the NHS, which is useful if you are looking
for National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence
(NICE) approved psychiatric medication that your local
NHS services is saying it can’t provide. The manifesto
is unclear, however, about whether this will apply to
treatment other than medication, such as NICE-approved
psychological therapies, which are certainly not available
to everyone who could benefit from them at present.
By the time you read this we may already have a new
government in power.
So it is too late to tell you about anything in the
three main UK parties’ plans for mental health that
might influence your vote. But I’ll have a go anyway,
despite the fact that they haven’t published their
manifestos at the time of writing, plus pinning down
politicians’ election promises can, at the best of times,
be a slippery business.
I’ll take Labour first, since they are the easiest. This
is because of the recent publication of New Horizons
(Department of Health, 2009), the cross-governmental
strategy for mental health that is intended to build
on the National Service Framework for Mental Health
(Department of Health, 1999). I wrote about this in
the February issue and have done a more detailed
analysis later in this issue. So I won’t say anything
more about it here, other than it has been broadly
welcomed across the mental health community as
heading in the right direction.
The Conservatives
Conservative policy is a little harder to pin down. The
Conservative’s Draft Manifesto includes a chapter on
Our Reform Plans for the NHS (The Conservative Party,
2010). It speaks of the need for ‘massive change’ across
the board, and in particular to reduce the national
debt. The Conservatives promise to spend less than
Labour, which may reduce that debt, but won’t bring
Policy watch
Simon Lawton-Smith
Head of Policy, Mental Health Foundation
A quarterly review of recent and forthcoming developments within mental health policy.
Key words
Mental health policy; public mental health; well-being; personalisation

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