Our response to Matt Hancock being appointed as the new Secretary of State for Health & Social Care
On Monday, 9th July 2018, Matt Hancock replaced Jeremy Hunt as Secretary of State for Health & Social Care. We asked our Senior Public Affairs Officer, Louise Forsyth, to set out what pressing issues will be in his in-tray.
The Department of Health and Social Care changed a lot during Jeremy Hunt’s seven years in charge. He oversaw the first ever Government plan to improve the nation’s mental health (published in 2016). In 2017, the Government announced an Independent Review of the Mental Health Act, and earlier this year social care was added to the remit of the Department. Crucially, last month, and to mark its 70th birthday, the NHS was promised a £20bn increase in funding each year by 2023.
All in all, it is difficult to argue that we are not making progress – mental health has undeniably risen up the policy agenda and has become a key focus for both the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England. However, it also difficult to argue that we should be happy with our current destination. Far too many people still do not receive timely support when they need it. Support that gives them a real voice in their care and treatment.
Here are some of the priorities we hope Matt Hancock will focus on as Secretary of State so mental health still gets the political attention it needs and deserves.
1. Reform of the Mental Health Act
We have said for a long time that the Mental Health Act is outdated. Only a change in the law will expand the rights and improve the experience of people who are detained under the Mental Health Act and their carers.
It is crucial that Matt Hancock closely follows the work of the Independent Review of the Mental Health Act and supports legislative change to ensure the Act is reformed.
2. Delivery of the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health
We the new Secretary of State to make sure the recommendations of the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health are achieved in full. Good progress has been made in areas like Early Intervention in Psychosis, where the latest data shows that across the country 75.9% of people experiencing psychosis for the first time are getting treatment within two weeks.
But, there is still so much more to do. Now we have reached the half-way point in the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health, people are starting to talk about what the future holds after 2020/21. We want Matt Hancock to commit to making sure any future mental health strategy puts a big emphasis on supporting people severely affected by mental illness who are currently struggling to access support.
3. Making sure everyone severely affected by mental health has a place to call home
We want the Secretary of State to be a leader in making sure mental health runs through all Government policy. For example, housing is crucial to create a stable environment where people can progress towards recovery. It is a vital foundation to reduce out of area placements, inpatient admissions and delayed discharges.
Yet our recent report of views from frontline supported housing staff revealed that 84% believed the existence of their service could be threatened by the proposals in the Supported Housing review.
We hope that Matt Hancock works with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to ensure that everyone severely affected by mental illness has a place to call home.
Finally, funding. The Prime Minister recently announced a 3.4% increase in health spending, meaning that the NHS will get £20bn extra a year by 2023. A significant proportion of this new money must go to our mental health services which have been so underfunded in the past.
Our supporters tell us how they have experienced waits of 12 months or more for support. The proportion of this new money that goes to mental health must take into account not just what services need now, but what they will need in future to truly achieve parity of esteem.
Today, we need our campaigners to help us keep the pressure up and ensure that Matt Hancock puts mental health on par with physical health. You can help us by signing up to become a campaigner today.