A UK Department of Health report called Closing the Gap: Priorities for essential change in mental health, has continued work to give mental health equal priority with physical health. The department says that in many areas there have been improvements to the quality and availability of mental health services. However, people who use mental health services, and those that care for them, continue to report gaps in provision and long waits for services, according to the report. Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister, said: “All too often, attitudes to mental health are stuck in the dark ages; full of stigma and stereotypes. It’s time for us to bring mental health out of the shadows and to give people with mental health conditions the support they need and deserve. “We’re calling for action – across the NHS, the mental health sector and wider society – to champion change, to transform outdated attitudes and practices and to improve the lives of people with mental health problems. “We recognise that we’ve got a mountain to climb but we’re working hard to ensure that the needs of those with mental health problems are considered not just in the NHS, but also across our public sector: with better support in education, employment, the justice sector, housing and elsewhere.

Ultimately, it’s going to take all of us working together to achieve the change in attitudes to mental health that we need, to create an environment together where it’s okay to talk about mental health.” The document identifies 25 aspects of mental health care and support where government – along with health and social care leaders, academics and a range of representative organisations – expect to see tangible changes in the next couple of years. They include: Patients will have a choice about where they get their mental health care – just as someone needing an operation can already choose their hospital or the consultant-led team that will care for them. From next year, waiting time standards will begin to be introduced for mental health – giving mental health patients the same rights as someone who needs, for example, a hip replacement or treatment for cataracts. The Friends and Family Test – already making a difference in the NHS – will be rolled out to mental health services for the first time so patients can give their own feedback on their care and mental health trusts will be able to take swift action if improvements are needed.

Talking therapies are already helping 600,000 people – this will be expanded so that 300,000 more people will get help. Children with mental health problems will get more support – including an aim to roll talking therapies for children and young people out to the whole country by 2018 and better support for children moving from adolescent services into adult services. £43 million will be invested in pilot schemes targeted at better housing for people with mental health problems or learning disabilities. Architects and builders will work with mental health experts and charities to bid for projects next year with the aim of new homes beginning to be built by 2017 The full report can be viewed at www.gov.uk/government/publications/mental-health-priorities-for-change