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The NHS is set to roll out mental health employment specialists across the country, as a new analysis of services shows that 2,300 patients have been helped into work in the last year.
As part of patients’ care and support package, employment specialists in NHS Individual Placement and Support (IPS) services, offer advice about finding a job, help them to prepare for an interview and can speak with potential employers about how someone’s condition can be managed so that they can work effectively whilst staying in good health.
The trained specialists also improve the health of people with severe mental illness, reducing the need for urgent hospital admissions and GP appointments. Research shows that type of support can free up as much as £6,000 per patient, which can be invested in other frontline care.
Claire Murdoch, NHS England national mental health director, said: “Helping people with mental ill health to find and keep a job is good for individual wellbeing and good for the health of our economy. Tackling severe mental illness is not just about getting medication and treatment right, but ensuring people can recover to live independently with their condition, including the reward and satisfaction of getting and keeping a job.
“In our 70th year, mental health is one of the NHS’ top priorities, and ensuring services are integrated, so people get whole-person care, means our patients get better outcomes and taxpayers are rewarded as treatment is more efficient. One in seven of us will go through mental ill health whilst at work, so delivering a safety net, to help people back in to work when they fall ill, will minimise harm and make our country’s workforce more productive.”
Nicola Oliver, from Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Employment support linked to mental health means people can live the life they want to lead.
“If you help someone into a job they really like – which means they are inspired to get up in the morning and want to manage their symptoms – they’re likely to say to their clinician ‘This is what I want to do, help me to overcome these barriers.’ In this way, you’re motivating the person to manage their own condition.”
Mental health employment specialists in the IPS service are part of community mental health teams. They currently operate in parts of the country including Sussex, Bradford, Northampton and some London boroughs, which have seen 9,000 people in the past twelve months.
NHS England will be providing £10 million funding to expand access over the next two years, with further investment to follow. By 2021, NHS England anticipates that 20,000 people with severe mental illness will receive tailored care and employment advice via the NHS, suggesting that around 5,000 people with mental ill health avoid unemployment thanks to better health care.
Research by the Mental Health Foundation last year suggested that people’s mental ill health costs UK employers £35 billion. Investment in improving employment prospects via health services like IPS can increase productivity and reduce demand for employment and disability support payments like Jobseeker’s Allowance and Employment Support Allowance.
IPS is one of a number of integrated mental health services which are being introduced or expanded across England, as part of NHS England’s Five Year Forward View for Mental Health, a transformation and investment programme to improve care between 2016 and 2021.
In Cambridge, early results of integrating mental health treatments with other services has resulted in a 75 per cent reduction in people with long-term conditions like diabetes requiring emergency hospital admissions.