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Monday, 9 July, 2001, 17:02 GMT 18:02 UK
Boost for mental health care
Mental health
Mental health care is often seen as a "Cinderella service"
A national institute is to be established to improve standards of mental health care.

The National Institute for Mental Health in England (NIMHE) will be charged with improving treatment and research in an area which critics say has been neglected for too long.

We are committed to reshaping services to deliver more patient-focused care

Health Minister Jacqui Smith
It will co-ordinate research, develop mental health services and organise training.

Ministers say it will be the first of its kind in the world.

NIMHE will develop a national research plan aimed at setting up a network of top universities and centres to co-ordinate studies and conduct large-scale clinical trials into new drugs and therapies for mental illnesses.

Campaigners have claimed that patients have suffered because funding for research into new treatments has been scarce.

Where drugs are available, their provision has been patchy. A report into the availability of new drugs for the treatment of schizophrenia published this week found a ten-fold variation in availability in different parts of the country.

The institute, part of the government's modernisation agency, will be headed by the mental health czar Professor Louis Appleby.

Key priority

Health minister Jacqui Smith said: "Mental health is a key priority for this government and we are committed to reshaping services to deliver more patient-focused care.

"This new institute will bring together agencies, patients, carers and health professionals.

"It will improve the care of, and prospects for, people with mental illness and lead to more consistency in how services are delivered across the country."

Professor Appleby said: "The overall aim of the Institute will be to drive forward the implementation of the National Service Framework for Mental Health and the changes for mental health services set out in the NHS Plan.

"The Institute will initiate the development of regional Clinical and Service Development Networks and they will bring together the best in current practice with new developments in the area of mental health to ensure that high quality care is consistently provided."

Positive response

It must have service user and carer input from the start so that people with direct experience of mental health, rather than academics, are setting the agenda

Cliff Prior
The institute has received the enthusiastic backing of mental health charities.

Cliff Prior, chief executive of the National Schizophrenia Fellowship, said: "It is time to get down to work and make sure that the raft of government initiatives already announced start making a difference to people's lives.

"People have long since tired of mental health's Cinderella status and want to get to the Ball.

"If this new institute succeeds in its aim of co-ordinating change and 'reshaping services to deliver more patient-focused care' it will be welcomed across the board."

However, Mr Prior warned that the institute would only work if its work was informed by service user and carer input.

"It must have service user and carer input from the start so that people with direct experience of mental health, rather than academics, are setting the agenda."

Margaret Edwards, head of strategy at mental health charity SANE, said: "SANE hopes this initiative will mean that everyone with mental health problems, wherever they live, can receive the most up to date treatments and therapies."

The new body will be up and running by the Autumn of this year.

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06 Apr 01 | Health
30m to revamp mental health wards
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