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New government taskforce to tackle mental health issues

Eight coalition cabinet ministers are joining forces to address the challenges facing NHS mental health services. 

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has continued his campaign to improve mental health services in the UK with the announcement that he will establish and chair a new Mental Health Taskforce. Joining him on the taskforce will be eight senior coalition ministers, including Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Home Secretary Theresa May and Justice Secretary Chris Grayling, as well as junior ministers from Health, Education and Defence. The announcement follows on from Clegg's recent pledge to set new waiting time targets for mental health, should the coalition be re-elected next year.

The establishment of the taskforce will no doubt be welcomed by professionals working across the spectrum of mental health services, from psychiatrists and psychologists to mental health nurses and learning disability nurses. They have been struggling to cope with real terms cuts in funding and increased demand, with the Royal College of Psychiatrists claiming that NHS mental health services are underfunded by £10 billion.  The new taskforce's remit focuses on three key areas: how to improve mental health services for young people; welfare and employment issues i.e. helping get people with mental health issues back to work; and how to improve crisis care to prevent those with mental health problems ending up in police cells or prisons.

The Government has already set up a taskforce to review children's and young people's mental health provision which, as well as senior figures in healthcare management and strategy, also has amongst its members a number of frontline professionals, including a mental health nurse, two CAMHS psychiatrists and a forensic psychologist. In October this taskforce held its first full meeting, which was reviewed by co-Chair Jon Rouse on the website. "There was consensus from the outset that we need radical change in how we promote, protect and care for young people’s mental health," he reported. "There was also a shared recognition that in many ways and many places we have got stuck in an institutional slough that expects young people and their families to fit in with outdated and remote service models."

According to, the new ministerial taskforce will meet within days to 'urgently examine' its three key areas of focus. "This is too big an issue for the NHS to deal with alone, " said Clegg. "The whole of government needs to combine its efforts and pool its resources to help millions of people whose mental health condition is preventing them from getting on in life."

Are you a psychiatrist, psychologist or mental health nurse with views on the Government's mental health strategy? Leave your comments below.

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