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Paul Burstow: Mental health focus needed to solve critical NHS issues

The NHS funding challenge can only be met by a psychologically minded NHS, says former Care Services minister

The funding challenge facing the NHS can only be met by focusing on mental healthcare provision, according to a speech given by Professor Paul Burstow, the former Care Services minister, at his inaugural lecture at City University London on Thursday.

Setting out the problems facing the NHS and the need for better mental health care, Professor Burstow said:

“The £22bn efficiency challenge faced by the NHS is its biggest ever. The NHS will struggle to deliver this unless substantial investment to support transformation is made over the next three years.

“To reach this target we will need to invest heavily in proven models of good mental health, this includes acting earlier to avoid mental health problems becoming entrenched. Half of life long mental illness had its first signs in the teenage years, and earlier identification and treatment could save the NHS large amounts of money in the long-term.”

According to Professor Burstow, other areas that need urgent attention include:

  • Ending the artificial divide between mind and body in the design and delivery of healthcare and the training and development of staff. Half of all illness under 65 is mental illness
  • 40,000 deaths due to poor management of co-occurring mental health problems could be avoided if the existing best practice was applied across the NHS

At the event, Professor Burstow said:

“Even with major changes it won't be sufficient to make the service to the public more joined up if the NHS doesn't embrace more collaborative styles of leadership. So the culture and management of the NHS needs to be more psychologically minded too.”

Having recently joined City University London, Professor Paul Burstow will work across the areas of health and social care, health management, public health and health services research and will input to undergraduate and graduate teaching, as well as research, enterprise and innovation.

Appointed as Minister of State for Care Services from 2010 until 2012 while serving as the Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for Sutton and Cheam, Professor Paul Burstow was responsible for setting policy on long term health conditions, adult social care, mental health services, carers and learning disability programmes. He also played a key role in shaping the 2014 Care Act. His achievements as a minister include developing new talking therapy services for children and young people, banning age discrimination in the NHS and doubling investment in dementia research.

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