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Dr Geraldine Strathdee, National Clinical Director for Mental Health, who today addressed the Westminster Health Forum’s keynote seminar on the next steps for delivering policy, details how NHS England and its partners are tackling employment issues for patients:
A new outcome indicator for CCGs will measure the percentage of people using specialist mental health services who are in employment.
This is a vital step to improving the lives of people of working age with mental health problems who, for too long, have not been given the help they need to get or keep a job.
Today, fewer than one person in ten using mental health services is in work. Many more would like to try out work yet far too often are discouraged from seeking employment. Some are told by health professionals ‘you’ll never work again’ or warned to postpone their job search because they are ‘not ready’.
Yet we know that for many people, work is a big help to recovering from mental illness. So the introduction of this new measure will be warmly welcomed by people who use mental health services, especially the 43 per cent who, according to successive CQC surveys, have wanted help with employment but not received it.
For NHS organisations, meanwhile, it presents some significant challenges. They will need to measure accurately employment rates and take steps to raise the numbers of people able to get into work and maintain their employment.
The good news for CCGs and mental health providers is that there is a tried and tested model available to support people into paid work. And evidence suggests that when people are placed in sustained employment they make less use of health services and have fewer hospital admissions. (see ).
The model, Individual Placement and Support (IPS), is endorsed by NICE in its guidelines for promoting recovery in patients with schizophrenia, and it is supported by twelve randomised controlled trials (see the Centre for Mental Health website for more details).
Skilled IPS employment specialists persuade employers to place people in work, and provide on-going support to enable their clients to maintain that employment. They work as part of a person’s clinical team and look for jobs based on a person’s individual skills and preferences.
The outcomes can be surprisingly good. IPS even works well in areas of high unemployment or during times of recession because success relies on the development of trusting relationships between the employee, employer and employment specialist.
About half of England’s NHS mental health trusts have explored how their service users can get access to IPS, making it available through their own staff, or in partnership with third sector IPS experts based within community teams. And the charity Centre for Mental Health has identified 14 IPS Centres of Excellence, who work faithfully to the international IPS model and whose job outcomes are exemplary. But too many people are still not given the option of an IPS service and as a result miss out on opportunities that might help them to recover.
- You can follow Dr Geraldine Strathdee on Twitter: @DrG_NHS