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NHS England has announced a major expansion of a landmark scheme designed to help tens of thousands of patients with serious mental health problems who want to work, to find employment.
The voluntary scheme, known as Individual Placement and Support (IPS), is being rolled out to 28 new local NHS areas, meaning eight out of ten parts of England will have access to the programme.
Access is expected to double to 20,000 people per year by 2020/21 and will continue to expand as part of the NHS Long Term Plan – helping 55,000 people each year by 2023/24.
Patients hoping to get back into work can be referred directly by their doctor or another mental health professional, and can also self-refer.
Employment specialists offer coaching and advice, along with practical tips on finding a job and preparing for interviews. They can also search for jobs and engage with employers directly on patient’s behalf to identify well-suited roles – acting as a crucial link between patient, their employer and medical team.
Patients can call on the trained specialists who are embedded within health teams, at any time. They work alongside psychologists, mental health nurses and other health professionals and can speak to potential employers about how best to support people so that they can work effectively, while staying in good health.
These schemes have also been shown to be cost-effective. A Centre for Mental Health review calculated that they can free up as much as £6,000 per patient over 18 months, which can be invested in other frontline care.
Claire Murdoch, NHS England national mental health director, said: “The goals and aspirations of someone living with severe mental illness are the same as anyone else’s – steady employment and an active life.
“As the NHS Long Term Plan makes clear – stable employment is a major factor in maintaining good health and is an important outcome for recovery. Those in work tend to be in better health, visit their GP less and are less likely to need hospital treatment, which is good individuals themselves as well as being better for the economy.”
Prime Minister Theresa May said: “Helping those with mental ill health back into work is one of the best ways to ensure their health and happiness in the long term. This scheme is another important step forward in achieving that goal. The Government is working hard to ensure genuine parity of esteem between physical and mental health conditions, and our Long Term Plan will make the NHS a world leader in the care and support we provide to those who need it.”
To help ramp up services, NHS England has launched IPS Grow, in partnership with Social Finance, a not-for-profit organisation who will work with service providers and a range of employment specialists, mental health experts and academics to support services across the country.
To deliver the major expansion, services across England will employ hundreds of additional IPS employment specialists and team leaders – with IPS Grow providing hands on operational and local support Including support to recruit and train hundreds more staff.
Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, said: “We know that being able to work is an important part of keeping mentally well for many people, and everyone experiencing a mental health problem has the right to dignity and respect, including accessing work if it’s right for them. Ensuring that employers and organisations know how to support staff with mental health problems is a key part of this, as well as recognition that each individual will have differing experiences.
“We are pleased that the NHS is continuing its commitment to expanding Individual Placement and Support schemes to work one-on-one with more people across England. The IPS approach is the best evidenced and most successful way of supporting people into work because it puts the individual at the heart of the support. Commitment to expanding this was a major part of the 5 Year Forward View for Mental Health and it’s welcome to see extra funding to make this more available to people on a voluntary basis.”
Lynne Miller, IPS Grow National Lead, said: “For many people accessing mental health services, getting the right job can be life changing and key to their recovery. IPS offers the vital help that so many people who experience mental illness need to fulfil their ambitions and become more connected to their local communities. ”
The health service ultimately expects the programme to support as many as 115,000 patients each year by the end of the decade.
Based on over 20 years of research, including 22 randomised control trials, the IPS employment model is internationally recognised as the most effective way to support people with mental health problems to gain and keep paid employment.
On average, people who receive IPS show employment rates of 30-40% compared to rates in the control group of 10-12%. Those supported by IPS work significantly more hours per month, and have higher earnings and better job tenure, while some show reduced rates of hospital admission and less time spent in hospital.