Health Minister honoured to champion mental health

Date published: 28 June 2016

Health Minister, Michelle O’Neill, today told the Assembly that mental health is one of her key priorities and that she is honoured to champion the issue at the Executive table.

Health Minister Michelle O'Neill

Responding to an Assembly debate on mental health, the Minister said: “I made it known very early in my tenure that one of my main priorities will be to champion mental health.  In that sense, I am honoured to be the Executive's mental health champion”.

The Minister outlined the progress that has been made on mental health services in the last decade, since the Bamford Review – a comprehensive examination of mental health and learning disability services, which recommended increased funding and more community care. 

Specific achievements include an increase in mental health funding to £250million per year, fewer inpatient admissions and a range of developments on child and adolescent mental health, eating disorder services and provision of psychological therapies.  However the Minister acknowledged the challenges that remain. 

The Minister continued: “While our mental health services have come a long way since Bamford, it is clear that we have much more to do.  I am committed to further reform of mental health services.  This will require funding. 

“As an Executive, we face the challenge of deciding how we spend a limited budget.  The forthcoming Comprehensive Spending Review presents an opportunity to identify and prioritise bids for the investment that is required in mental health.  In so doing, I do not underestimate the challenges that exist right across the Health and Social Care system.”

The Minister’s contribution to the debate is her first major speech on mental health to the Assembly since her appointment in May, and she outlined the needs of the service, including further provision for mental trauma, eating disorders and perinatal mental health services.  She is also examining issues such as funding, parity of esteem with physical health, and options for a mental health champion.

Concluding, the Minister said: “The Bamford review set in motion some of the most significant changes ever seen in mental health services.  Those changes have transformed how we care for people with a mental illness and have significantly improved the achievable outcomes. 

“An evaluation of the Bamford Actions is well under way, and I am expecting a draft report this summer.  While I expect the evaluation will demonstrate the good progress made in the reform of Mental Health and Learning Disability services, it will also provide us with a more sophisticated understanding of needs and gaps.”

The Bamford evaluation is expected to be considered by the Executive in the autumn.

Notes to editors: 

  1. The proposal for the appointment of an independent mental health champion has support from a number of mental health bodies, including Action Mental Health, the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the Mental Health Foundation and Mindwise. 
  2. The Department is completing an evaluation of the Bamford Action Plan 2012-15 (extended to 31 March 2016).  It will assess how Executive Departments performed against the Action Plan, whether life is better for people with mental health problems as a result of the actions, and importantly, outline the needs and gaps in service provision to set the scene for this Assembly term.  It is intended that a draft will go to the Executive for consideration in the autumn. The Bamford Evaluation will consider options for the involvement of people with lived experience of mental health problems, which will include the appointment of a mental health champion amongst other options.
  3. The Minister and Department are also considering possible needs in relation to perinatal mental health, psychological therapies, mental trauma and eating disorders provision, subject to the availability of finance.
  4. Media enquiries about this press release to DoH Press Office on 028 9052 0575, or out of office hours contact to Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699 715440 and your call will be returned. Follow us on Twitter @healthdpt

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