The mental health sector: working better together

NHS England’s National Mental Health Director updates on progress of the Long Term Plan for future services:

Since the Prime Minister’s announcement of a 3.4% funding increase for the NHS in June, we have been working hard to develop a new long term plan for the NHS.

We want it to have ambitious proposals for the next ten years of mental health transformation in the country.

NHS England has conducted an extensive consultation process throughout the summer – and I am proud to say that the mental health sector has demonstrated extraordinary mobilisation to help us define our priorities.

I’ve been really impressed by how quickly and effectively charities, trusts and partner organisations responded to a call for submissions I launched on 25 July.

With only a few weeks to consult their networks, more than 200 organisations and individuals were asked to answer key questions on the future of mental health: What should the NHS top three priorities for mental health be? How do we address gaps in service provision? How can we better integrate physical and mental health care?

In less than two months we received around 150 really high-quality responses, representing the views of more than 27,000 people in total. The engagement of the mental health sector has been very impressive.

We heard from voluntary organisations, advocacy groups, patient reference groups, and service user networks who took part in our consultation process to ensure the voices of people with lived experience would be heard. And we paid specific attention to groups experiencing inequalities, and to young people, collecting their views through dedicated workshops.

As we know, partnership working is strongly linked to delivering good mental health services. The engagement responses have clearly reinforced the importance of our joint work with employers, Public Health England, social care, housing, education and other cross-government departments.

The Independent Mental Health Policy Group, led by Holly Paulson from the Royal College of Psychiatrists, has been sent extremely helpful feedback. Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind and Sheena Cumiskey, Chief Executive of Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, have had a vital role in ensuring all key groups – including chief executives, clinicians and service users – have been involved in the conversation.

Over the past few months, we’ve listened to the sector, and learned from its vast range of expertise and experience to inform our proposals on mental health for the NHS long term plan.

In September our NHS England mental health team undertook some in-depth analysis work. They found strong common themes – such as the need for more support for children and young people, and for those with serious mental illness.

Alongside these we’ve seen new, inspired ideas for approaches – for example in integrated mental health care in acute and primary care settings, in models of whole person care, early intervention, co-production and prevention. Essentially the sector is lobbying loud and clear for real innovation and ambition for mental health – a strong message we have heard and built into our recommendations for the long term plan.

I have been very touched by the way people from all ends of the mental health sector have rallied to support this work.

We deliver services which are often blighted by poor funding, high demand, and all too frequent bad press. Despite this I am shown yet again that we are a resilient, visionary collective, with the energy to mobilise and take action to drive improvement in the care we provide.

For this I thank you – and look forward to sharing with you the confirmed final plan for the next stage of our collaborative engagement for better mental health in England.

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.


  1. Dr Nicholas Smith says:

    Dear Claire,
    I am currently Head of Torquay Girls’ Grammar school.With regard to innovation and ambition whatever increase in intervention we provide, we are instantly swamped: the demand simply increases to fill our capacity.
    So we are heading upstream to try to prevent the formation of mental(and physical) ill health.
    Read about our attempt to create a Blue Zone School via this link

    Dr Nick Smith

  2. John Sturman London. says:

    Abolish local trusts and set up Regional NHS trusts. Providing both General and MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES.This will save money and improve services.