PM sets tone for future of mental health

NHS England’s recently appointed National Director for Mental Health looks at the changes in the pipeline:

I feel very privileged, as well a little daunted, to be the new National Director for Mental Health.

It is a time of considerable opportunity for improvement as we publish our Implementation Plan following the publication of the Mental Health Taskforce report earlier this year.

Since coming into post six weeks ago, I have been impressed by the level of skill and passion demonstrated by my colleagues at NHS England. Of course, this same skill and passion is reflected across the country by the myriad of users, carers, clinical commissioners, providers and policy makers. Better mental health really is all our business.

I was encouraged that the Prime Minster too, in her very first very speech mentioned mental health:

“If you suffer from mental health problems, there’s not enough help to hand”, the Prime Minster, the Rt Hon Theresa May MP, 13 July 2016.

I think this is reflective of a growing recognition that mental health threads throughout life and we have to pay attention to it. Never has there been a time of such acknowledgement that improving mental health makes economic sense and supports better life chances.

Cross governmental support is essential if we are to grasp issues of prevention, better integration between physical and mental health care and greater economic strength and prosperity. Education, employment, housing, tackling social isolation and inclusion are areas that require coherent policy and partnership working. This means the ability to collaborate and make change in a complex landscape is essential if we are to deliver better outcomes.

I am delighted our work focuses on all ages and a wide ranging series of programmes. We don’t just lump physical health care all in one basket and we shouldn’t do the same with mental health care.

The treatment and care needed for a woman with postpartum depression is different from that of a young man with an eating disorder or an adult of working age suffering with extreme phobias or anxiety. The needs of complex old age can be highly specialist and are different to the young person experiencing a first psychotic episode. Challenging ourselves to understand mental health better and to be better educated about how it can affect people is something we should all embrace.

I have worked in the NHS for more than thirty years and have been the Chief Executive of a large NHS Trust for the last nine of those. I’ve been a registered mental health nurse since 1987.

While combining these roles with my NHS England National Director role will have its challenges, it is of great benefit to have a view from the frontline with all of its opportunities and pressures and to use these perspectives to help inform our approach to implementing our mental health plan.

What an exceptional privilege it is to be part of such important improvements.


Claire Murdoch

Claire Murdoch is NHS England’s National Mental Health Director.

She has been a registered mental health nurse for 34 years, and joined NHS England in April 2016.

She is also Chief Executive of Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust. With a wealth of clinical and leadership experience she is leading delivery of the national mental health programme.