What the NHS Long Term Plan means for Mental Health

Hi all

The theme of last week was focusing on planning, discussing how the NHS Long Term Plan boosts mental health and our own one-year and long-term plans. Whilst it is really positive that extra investment is coming for mental health services, we still have significant challenges, financially, across our health and social care system.


It was a pleasure to lead our Leadership Academy last Wednesday which has now been refocused with the membership being our senior leaders.

Myself and Jonathan O’Brien presented on the NHS Long Term Plan and its boost for mental health (see below), as well as the STP mental health plans. We also discussed the future direction in the plan about integration.

Both Maria Nelligan,and Dr Buki Adeyemo gave a presentation on our Quality Prorities (the details of which were included in last week’s blog by Buki). Linda Holland and Geoff Neild presented on the workforce and estates ones.

Our external speaker was Simon Whitehouse, Director of the Staffordshire STP. Simon’s presentation was a thought provoking and frank assessment of the challenges facing our local health and care economy and the need for everyone across the region to work together collaboratively and imaginatively to deliver top-class care for our local populations and communities.

He also was happy to take questions from attendees and was able to respond to one and all with typical good humour and honesty – including accepting where things were difficult as well as progressing well. I know that his willingness to engage in this way was appreciated by all.


The headline ambition of the new NHS Long Term Plan – published on 7 January – is to deliver ‘world-class’ mental health care, when and where children, adults and older people need it.

It commits to grow investment in mental health services faster than the overall NHS budget. This creates a new ring-fenced local investment fund worth at least £2.3 billion a year by 2023/24. Further, the NHS made a new commitment that funding for children and young people’s mental health services will grow faster than both overall NHS funding and total mental health spending. This will support, among other things:

  • Integration with Primary Care & Community Services; and
  • Out of area placements

There is so much in the Plan with direct and highly significant relevance to mental health that I have taken the unusual step of creating a short film containing the slides from my Leadership Academy presentation for you all to be able to watch and digest at your own speed. You can watch it by clicking below and pause as you wish to read each slide in more detail.


On Friday, we had 36 of our senior clinicians take part in a Clinical Risk workshop focusing on how we implement ‘Just Culture’ led by our Medical Director, Buki Adeyemo. The workshop was delivered by Mark Riley-Pit, who has worked with Mersey Care in this approach.

There was discussion about how compassion and openness with service users and staff when an error has occurred will encourage learning culture. Evidence has shown that where this approach has been adopted, there is a commensurate decrease in incidents.

This approach will be further developed within the Trust with the new leaders.


I was delighted last week to visit our psychiatric intensive Care unit. I was shown round by Natalie Larvin and Maxine Tilstone, the ward manager. I was really pleased to meet such committed and dedicated staff. They were evidently very motivated and proud of their model of care and support to service users and carers. A very big thank-you to them


The latest meeting of our Inclusion Council focused on our track record in recruiting and retaining BAME staff – as well as a fascinating discussion on how to avoid unconscious bias in recruiting practices.

Cherie Cuthbertson – our Recruitment and Retention Lead – presented some very thought-provoking, high-level analysis on how BAME applicants at Combined Healthcare fare at different stages of the recruitment and interview process, which suggests there is work needed to be done at the latter stages of the process, as the percentage of BAME success drops significantly. We will be carrying out some further Deep Dive analysis to understand exactly what lies behind the apparent top-line messages.

The Council also discussed work done by NHS experts on ‘unconscious bias’ in recruitment practices.  Unconscious bias is an important cause of discrimination in many aspects of workplace activity. Such bias, or judgments about, and behaviour toward others that we are unaware of, is all around us. It is now well established that it affects how staff are shortlisted, appointed, promoted, paid, disciplined and even bullied at work. It affects all manner of decisions, notably in discrimination where research has extensively documented its impact on women, and ethnic minority staff in particular.

We have begun delivering training for regular recruiting managers in the Trust through Inclusive Recruitment Workshops being delivered for us by Joy Warmington, CEO of BRAP Equality. The first ot these took part in January and a second is planned for 18 March.

These are practical and enjoyable learning experiences, designed to give managers an understanding of different types of biases and how they can influence the decisions that we all make. They also give an opportunity for attendees to review their own decision making processes and to examine ‘real’ case studies so that they spot how and where bias occurs. The final part of the workshop helps managers understand and review the effectiveness of interventions that are used to enhance fairness in talent management and recruitment process.

Can I ask everyone to check whether or not you have received an invitation to take part in these workshops and, if you have received an invitation but not yet booked a place, to please do so.  It really is important that we do all we can to ensure our recruitment processes and practices are as inclusive as possible.


The first episode of our new Podcast, Combinations, was launched last Thursday to coincide with national Time to Talk Day and features our CAMHS team talking about their nationally leading service, involving new investments, new staff, new services, partnership with schools and being a NHS Long Term Plan CAMHS Trailblazer and a NHS Digital Exemplar.

The launch attracted tweets and likes across social media and we’ve had over 160 listens in just the first few days, so it’s clear that it’s something that is of interest.

We’re inviting everyone to submit their ideas for a short film or Podcast via a webform on the staff, service users and carers page. We’ve already begun to have some great ideas coming through, so there is clearly a real appetite from our staff to take part, which is great.

Whether it’s a fantastic initiative going on across Combined and its partners that you think the wider world would want to hear about, a service that really deserves promotion, or a mental health condition or treatment that you think needs greater understanding or profile, tell us about it!  All ideas will be considered by our Communications Team and, if selected, they will be able to work with you to turn your idea into a film or Podcast.