Contract negotiations – the time is now to campaign for mental health

This year for the first time, clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) are setting two year service contracts with providers, and these need to be finalised by 23 December. Tim Kendall and Claire Murdoch issue a rallying call for the mental health workforce.

We need you to be ambitious about your goals for the mental health workforce, both for retention and for new roles, for service users and carers; and we need you to not settle for less than you need to start delivering the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health.

Recent conversations with many colleagues across mental health, including NHS England’s Chief Executive Simon Stevens make it clear that if we are going to achieve the ambitious goals we’ve set out in the FYFV for mental health, medical directors, and other provider executives really need to be in campaign mode. Teams will need to negotiate hard, to make our voice heard and to ensure that mental health is represented properly in these contracts which directly impact the next two years of health service delivery.

It’s important to remember that we’ve already come a long way. The national focus on mental health has changed – we’ve improved its visibility, which brings new opportunities, but also greater scrutiny than ever before. The recent launch of the mental health dashboard means we will increasingly be able to demonstrate tangible improvements for mental health – for example to show that Early Intervention in Psychosis (EIP) is meeting NICE concordant standards, or the progress we are making in Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT), with nearly 50% recovery rates.

This is just the beginning though: we can’t lose sight of the serious targets we’ve set ourselves to achieve by 2020. These include ensuring 70,000 more children and young people have access to evidence based mental health care; that 30,000 more women each year have access to evidence based specialist perinatal mental health care and to help 600,000 more people per year access evidence based psychological therapies.

These are ambitious aims, but with the right resources in place, we are confident we can reach them and demonstrate that money spent in mental health is money well spent. This is also the reason why it is vital to campaign now for mental health in CCG contracts.

Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) can also help us reach these goals. As you will have read in recent days, all 44 STPs are now published. Our view on these is that they may all be published, but there still remains a great deal of variation between them in terms of mental health priorities. We have fed back, with some impact so far and are still working with STPs to get mental health higher on the agenda. If you need advice or a visit from our team to help improve the position of mental health in your STP, get in touch at  Remember: collaboration is key to delivering STPs. This needs to be a mantra for providers and commissioners, to work together – and with us – to make the savings the NHS needs.

So finally, please, please campaign hard to get your mental health contracts sorted. Parliament needs to see real investment in mental health and it is down to negotiation between chief executives, directors of operations and medical directors with CCGs that will help ensure we get this, and get the best for our patients. Thank you for your continued support, we wish you a good break and look forward to resuming work with you in the New Year!

Professor Tim Kendall

Professor Tim Kendall is NHS England’s National Clinical Director for Mental Health. He has been Director of the National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health at the Royal College of Psychiatrists for 15 years and Visiting Professor at University College London for the last eight years.

Tim has also been Medical Director for 13 years and continues as Consultant Psychiatrist for the homeless at Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust.

As Medical Director, Tim has set up a service user experience monitoring unit, led the reconfiguration of acute care and rehabilitation leading to the elimination of out of area treatments, the modernisation of the acute and crisis care pathways and initiated the development of NICE recommended personality disorder services within the community.

He chaired the first NICE guideline, launched in December 2002, on the management of schizophrenia and the first National Quality Standard (Dementia) for NICE.

Tim has published numerous articles and papers and often represents the NCCMH, NICE or the Royal College of Psychiatrists in the media. In 2004, he was awarded “Lancet Paper of the Year” for showing the impact of selective publishing by the drug industry about antidepressants in the treatment of childhood depression; and with others was awarded the Paper of the Year Award for the Health Economic Journal ‘Value in Health’ in 2012 for work on schizophrenia.