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Mental health: The public’s number one issue for 2016

We ask local Healthwatch every year to tell us what matters most to local people regarding health and social care. This year it was mental health that came out on top with 77 out of 152 local Healthwatch identifying it as a priority.

The Department of Health is currently seeking to ensure continued progress towards its commitments to parity of esteem between physical and mental health. As well as providing care for those in crisis, the Department wants to help people early on. This agenda has been supported by the Prime Minister's announcement calling for “a much-needed revolution for mental health treatment in Britain”.*

NHS England's Mental Health Taskforce's report, published in February 2016, aims to improve mental health outcomes for people of all ages in the health and care system. As the Mental Health Taskforce's recommendations are implemented it is vital that service users and the wider community are involved from the start.

This briefing shows how engaging people in improving care and support makes a real difference in enabling mental health services to deliver for people.

The Healthwatch network exists to hear and share the views and experiences of local people so that their voices can inform decisions regarding health and social care services. Local Healthwatch have engaged with people across the country so that they could develop an understanding of local mental health support, and have then documented their findings and recommendations. Some have used their statutory powers to carry out visits to mental health wards in order to find out inpatients' views.

While this briefing is not a comprehensive study, it highlights examples of work local Healthwatch have done with mental health commissioners and providers to ensure that more people receive the mental health support they require. It also provides helpful insight for decision-makers into the current challenges people face in accessing the support they need.