BMA calls for greater investment in public services to support mental health

Greater investment in public health – from ‘cradle to grave’ – is required to prevent poor mental health and the wider impact must be factored into government policy, warns new BMA paper warns

In a paper published today by the BMA – Promoting mental health and prevention – growing concerns from doctors about the sheer scale of the mental health problem are brought to light; the BMA says that the need for a ‘bigger picture approach’ on the social causes of poor mental health is urgently required to effectively tackle the rising demand.

Striking variations in the amount local authorities (LA) spend on public mental health services is highlighted in the paper, which notes that reduced funding for public health – the result of central government budget cuts – means that mental public health has been badly neglected across many parts of the country.

The most recent LA spending figures reveal, for example, that Kent spent the largest amount (£2.8m) on public mental health, while a considerable number of LAs – including Brighton and Hove and Bournemouth – recorded zero spending.

The findings of the research has led the BMA to call for an increase in funding for LAs to adequately invest in public mental health as well as other public health services that will impact people’s mental wellbeing, advocating a ‘life-course approach’, which will ensure targeted support from ‘cradle to grave’ – during childhood, education, employment to later life.

However, the medical association says that more than investment is required and is supporting a ‘health in all policies’ approach so, that the impact of funding decisions on public mental health can be taken into account when policies are drawn up.

Responding to the paper, BMA mental health policy lead, Dr Andrew Molodynski, said:

“With doctors growing increasingly concerned about the sheer scale of the mental health problem in the UK, this paper calls for a new and comprehensive approach by central and local government to consider the impact on mental health across new policy changes.

“As demand for mental health care far outweighs the resources provided, there is a need for a greater focus on preventative measures.

“Mental health is not a strictly clinical issue; it is dependent on a wide range of societal and environmental factors, all of which can be improved with the right focus and investment. There are however worrying variations across the country in the provision of services aimed at stopping people from becoming mentally unwell or helping those who are.

“In a country that prides itself on world-leading healthcare, we must do all we can to significantly improve the resources needed by people at risk from mental illness and improve their physical and mental wellbeing– regardless of their background or where they live.

“The picture doesn’t have to look so bleak – with careful consideration of mental healthcare need, at the earliest possible stages of policy-making across all areas of government, matched with the right investment, we will begin to see the widescale improvements that are necessary. This paper, therefore, champions a life-course approach which ensures support for people’s mental health through each stage of their life; from early education to retirement.”

To tackle the rising levels of stress and anxiety among doctors, the BMA has launched a survey³ as part of their approach to improving doctors’ mental health and wellbeing.

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