Mentally Ill People Need More Help to Stay in Work

People with mental illness should have more help to stay in work, including prompt NHS treatment and support from employers, such as flexible working hours, England’s chief medical officer has said.

In her annual report Sally Davies said that the number of working days lost to stress, depression, and anxiety in the United Kingdom had risen by 24% since 2009.1 Altogether 70 million working days were lost to mental illness in the UK in 2013, with a cost to the economy of between £70bn (€87bn; $113bn) and £100bn.

Davies called for the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence to look at whether accelerating access to treatment for people who work improves their chances of avoiding sick leave.

People need more help to prevent underlying mental health problems escalating and developing into enduring illness, Davies emphasised. To try to tackle this she has recommended a pilot scheme to integrate psychiatric services into primary care. GPs should also have more time for training in mental health, her report said.

Davies reiterated calls for parity of funding between the acute sector and mental health services. Currently three quarters of people with a diagnosable mental illness receive no treatment at all, the report said. She also called for NHS England to develop waiting time targets for mental health services.

Davies said that children and teenagers with mental health illness need better care, because half of adult mental illness starts before the age of 15 and three quarters before the age of 18.

Reference

BMJ 2014;349:g5576

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