In the UK, National Health Service (NHS) bosses have said that a new 10-year plan could save up to 500,000 lives by focusing on prevention and early detection, and that GPs, mental health and community care will get the biggest funding increases to shift the focus away from hospitals.
Richard Coe, Project Director at Kajima Partnerships, a PFI/PPP provider specialising in health and education, commented on the plan: “It is extremely refreshing to see mental health becoming a political priority under the NHS 10-year Long Term Plan as mental healthcare has traditionally come second to physical health services when distributing available NHS funding. Undoubtedly the extra £2.3bn allocated to mental healthcare is a very promising start to what could be a real transformation of mental health services in the UK.
We are particularly supportive of the shift in focus away from hospitals to prevention and care in the community through new evidence-based NHS prevention programmes with specific action for people with long term mental health problems.
We also support the improvement around land usage, which is particularly relevant to Kajima Partnerships through our work with South West London and St George's Mental Health NHS Trust (SWLSTG) which through its estate modernisation programme is using surplus land receipts to deliver two new mental health hospitals to replace the original and now dilapidated facilities, opened in the 1840s. This aligns with a key aim of the plan to allow the NHS to improve the way it uses its land, buildings and equipment to improve quality and productivity, energy efficiency and dispose of unnecessary land to enable reinvestment while supporting the government’s target to build new homes.
However, for this extra funding to have a genuine impact on how mental healthcare is delivered in the country, it must be matched by investment in the NHS estate so that effective care can take place consistently and in the community, to help identify and treat mental healthcare earlier. While hospital care is crucial, the presence of supporting community-based facilities is critical in reducing the burden on busy NHS departments.
Currently much of the NHS estate remains hidebound by decaying, old-fashioned and isolated facilities with little accompanying community support. The solution to this problem lies not just in promising funding but in changing how healthcare is physically accessed and delivered. It is absolutely critical that we have facilities purpose-designed to support the new resources, such as community crisis teams and school Mental Health Support Teams, outlined in the 10-Year Plan so that the NHS’ ability to actually deliver them is not compromised.
Effectively treating mental health means not merely having adequate crisis care but an integrated system of rehabilitation and recovery supported by modern, community-centred buildings, with hospitals no longer viewed merely as standalone treatment centres but as part of the wider community. Ultimately, if we are to provide modern mental healthcare we must have the modern infrastructure to match.
Evidence suggests that demand for mental health services in the UK is only growing, however the current model for mental health care is unsustainable and to make improvements we must radically change our approach to overcome the constraints of tight budgets and to deliver the best possible outcomes for patients. One of our first and foremost responses to this challenge must be to modernise the mental health estate – a task that is long overdue and a scenario that is absolutely achievable before the NHS celebrates its 80th birthday.”