New government needs to 'own' new mental health strategy – MHC Chief

New government needs to 'own' new mental health strategy – MHC Chief

An updated mental health strategy should not be published until a new government is in place, says the Chief Executive of the Mental Health Commission.

While welcoming plans to update the 2006 ‘Vision for Change’ mental health strategy, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Commission, John Farrelly, said a new government should take ownership of the new strategy.

The Commission recently urged all political parties to prioritise mental health services in the next programme for government.

“I don’t think publishing the refreshed strategy now would be helpful,” Mr Farrelly said. 

"There has to be political ownership and stewardship of it and we’re going to have a new government in a few weeks. 

"What we want is political stewardship and ownership so that in the next programme for government mental health is prioritised and delivered on.”

Any new strategy to modernise services and address long-term systemic issues, Mr Farrelly said, should follow the model used to transform cancer services and should be backed by political will, leadership, and funding.

He said that the Commission has “substantial evidence" of what’s required to improve services, which are ad hoc, lacking integration, and too focused on institutional care rather than providing care in the community.

“Our mental health system needs a lot of work,” Mr Farrelly said, adding, “It needs political will, an agreed plan, an implementation group, and funding”.

The MCH chief emphasised that any taskforce should be service-led: “It’s key that there is an agreed plan a bit like the strategy that changed how cancer services are delivered. 

"It needs political stewardship to drive it through but it must be clinically-led and service-led."

“We have to stop trying to catch up and envision the future, which is in the community,” he said, adding that a "proper" service could be delivered in five years.

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