Government Strategy on Mental Health

Since the late 1990’s government strategy for mental health took the form of a ten year National Service Framework (NSF), which addressed the mental health needs of working age adults up to 65, promoting national standards; national service models; local action and national underpinning programmes for implementation; and a series of national milestones to support progress.

The New Horizons strategy was first published in December 2009, building on the NSF.  Associated programmes have been published subsequently. There maybe additional/updated strategies constructed by the coalition government, which will be reviewed as they emerge.

New Horizons aims to address the needs of adults with and without diagnosed mental health problems.  It takes a whole life approach to promoting and protecting mental health and speaks to cross-government and cross-sector audience.

For traditional providers of mental health services New Horizons captures and suggests a significant paradigm shift: that mental health is everyone’s business. According to the strategy we all have mental health and we all have the potential to promote good mental health.

Given New Horizons’ four key pledges, services that thrive will: -

  • be fully accessible to all sections of the community
  • challenge stigma in all they do
  • be accessible and evidence based
  • promote and support physical health wherever they can.

What are the implications?


New Horizons’ lack of explicitness about new forms of service provision represents both a threat and opportunity to mental health VCS providers.  It may inhibit any change - but it also provides the possibility for creativity and innovation in new approaches to service provision. Organisational development and survival will be helped by showing a clear understanding of the paradigm shift. It woudl also be supported by having concrete ways of implementing service provision which fits in with this.   

  • Mental health and wellbeing are becoming everyone’s business. Those who currently see it as their ‘core business’ may want to consider how they maintain  sustainability and service provision in an open operating environment.
  • The focus of mental health services is recovery and health promotion orientated, rather than just providers of ‘treatment’.  A holistic approach to the whole person is central to this approach, and includes services which may be accessible to anyone.
  • Links between whole population mental health and social inequality articulated in New Horizons encourage and empower mental health VCS groups to prioritise the promotion social equality.
  • Resourcing approaches to counter mental ill-health via the promotion of physical activity - and the allocation of resources to promote physical activity to those with longer term mental health difficulties is likely to be attractive to those with responsibility for service planning.
  • Given explicit recognition that standards on acute wards are poor, there may be opportunity for progressive VCS day service providers able to offer consultancy, support and access to innovation, which promotes service improvement and enables change in acute environments.

Moving forward

  • Visions only impact if people understand and buy into them - and make the resources available to support their implementation.  In a noisy, busy world strong VCS leadership will be needed, at all levels, to enable a New Horizons approach within existing resource allocations.
  • Do your key stakeholders, staff, trustees and funders for instance, understand the implications of the New Horizons strategy?
  • In what ways can your organisation demonstrate leadership to other sectors in terms of shared learning and approaches to the promotion of good mental health and wellbeing?
  • Are you considering the development of evidenced based services?
  • Are you ready to provide consultancy to other services, particularly in relation to innovative acute provision?
  • Do you need to assess your current services to ensure they are holistic in their approach?
  • In what ways does your organisation promote social equality? How can you evidence this?
  • Do you need to review the accessibility of your services? For example in terms of age, gender and ethnicity as well as those with ‘good’ mental health?
  • Do you currently offer or promote physical activity to those with longer term mental health problems? Could you work in partnership with others to offer your beneficiaries physical activities?

Want to know more?

Future vision and the future of mental health

Published by: The FutureVision Coalition

Date: July 2009

Format: PDF

What is it? Report from the Future Vision Coalition. The Coalition started in 2008 to think about how we believe Government and society should be changing to ensure people with mental distress have the best chance of recovery and a full life, and to give the whole population the best chance to stay well. This report sets out the details of four key changes it believes need to happen to enable those with experience of mental health problems to enjoy an equal opportunity of a fulfilling life:

How useful is this? As reports go, this is not too epic, clocking in at 36 pages. The report is responding to (what is now the previous) government strategies, namely the Dept of Health's New Horizon's Programme. As such this may become outdated. However, the concepts in the report are timeless and so the report is important reading. It provides an interesting background into the treatment and approach to mental health.






Last updated at 13:07 Wed 14/Jul/10.


How will this affect your organisation? Have you considered it during your strategic planning? Can you share any interesting relevant links?

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