UK Mental Health 2017 Conference

September 20th, 2017 – GovConnect Mental Health Conference

By Dr. Rohini Vijaygopal – The Mindfulness Foundation

On Wednesday, 20th September, The Mental Health 2017 conference was held at the Royal Society of Medicine in London convened by GovConnect. This conference was chaired by Andy Bell, the Deputy Chief Executive at The Centre for Mental Health.


Mental health problems are the single largest cause of disability in the UK. The cost to the economy is £105 billion in a year. This has triggered the putting together of a five year forward view for mental health for transforming the mental health care in England. The main goal of this conference was to make sure that the foundations for the implementation of the 5 year forward view of mental health are in place such that they benefit people of age groups, also catering to their specific needs.


Tim Kendall, the National Clinical Director for mental health introduced the report in a nutshell. The key themes in the strategy includes high quality 7-day services for people in crisis, integration of physical and mental healthcare; as well as prevention and early intervention. There is £1bn additional NHS investment by 2020/21 to help extra 1 million people of all ages.


Gregor Henderson, Director Wellbeing and Mental Health, Public Health England, spoke about promoting the physical health of people with mental health problems. Key themes included reducing health inequalities, community centred approaches, embedding and integrating mental health and improving workforce capacity and competency.


Dr. Quazi Haque and Patrick Neville from Elysium healthcare spoke about the new models of care in specialised services – to transform the commissioning, funding and delivery of secure services. Professor Dame Sue Bailey, Chair of Children & Young People’s Mental Health Coalition, spoke about the whole systems approach to children & young people’s mental health. Currently 1 in 10 or about 850,000 5-16 year olds have mental disorder and only about 25% receive any help. She talked about work with over 140 organisations to campaign and influence policy, with and on behalf of children and young people in relation their mental health and wellbeing.


Dr. Phil Moore, Chair – Mental Health Commissioners Network, NHS Clinical Commissioners, delved into unlocking secure care. He elaborated on the prevalence of confusion on what and who secure care is for. Professor Lisa Bayliss-Pratt, Director of Nursing & Deputy Director of Education and Quality, Health Education England, laid out 7 key expansion areas – perinatal mental health, Children & Young People’s mental health, improving health access to psychological therapies, management of mental health crisis, liaison for mental health, early intervention in psychosis and finally, access to liaison and diversion services. 


There were two interesting sessions on the use of digital technology for mental health. Sarah Bateup, Chief Clinical Officer, Ieso Digital Health, elaborated on how the digital space could be utilised to improve access to evidence-based mental health therapy with a focus on CBT. She talked about the identification of variables that consistently lead to good clinical outcomes and development of a quantifiable method of measuring therapists’ clinical skills. Andy Rooney, Regional Development Manager, XenZone, explained how digital technology can help reduce stigma, increase access and improve outcomes. He said the digital advantage in counselling is that it is an instant, professional support for children and young people, whenever and wherever they need it.


The afternoon plenary included some very passionately delivered sessions. Professor Ilora Finlay, Baroness Finlay of Llandaff, House of Lords, spoke about supported decision making. She elaborated on the 5 principles of the Mental Capacity Act 2005. She emphasised that Children and Young People are entitled to the same quantity and level of information, advice and support as parents and must have confidence that they are receiving confidential and impartial information, advice and support. Dr. Alain Gregoire, Chair, Maternal Mental Health Alliance, explained that children depressed at 16, all, had mothers who were depressed, mainly during pregnancy. Mother’s mental health during pregnancy needs attending to.


Sarah Pickup OBE, Deputy Chief Executive, Local Government Association, focused on improving mental health in local communities; also including the role of councils. She particularly reiterated that over half of all mental health starts before of the age of 14. Therefore, there is a greater need for focus on policy and resources on prevention and early intervention. Enabling everyday resilience and mental wellbeing is thus vital. Embedding mental health and wellbeing in schools is a priority.


The conference lasted for the entire day and truly brought together a wide range of stakeholders from Government departments and arms-length bodies, to the NHS and local authorities, research institutions, and the charity and voluntary sector to assess current progress and look at future allocations and associated policies. Throughout the conference, there was a clear emphasis on the importance of children and young people’s mental health, the need for building their resilience and an ever-increasing need for policies in terms of prevention and early intervention.