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Election outcome and implications for mental health


Before the ink dries on our ballot papers - well actually I think the custom is for using pencils in the polling booths these days, I do wonder on what the outcome will mean to mental health care?

David Cameron and the Conservative team appear to be poised to hold a slim but improved share of the electorate. But is this good for the NHS and mental health services?

My opinion is that we have to say yes despite a feeling amongst many that we lack any control. My reasons and rationale for saying yes are as follows:

  1. We have had a lot of acknowledgement on the importance of mental health care, support and treatment in recent years, especially for children's mental health care and a growing realisation that dementia is a critical issue affecting all aspects of health care. For me this bodes well for the ongoing profile of mental health over fear and cynicism.

  2. Although it was the Lib Dems who gave perhaps the strongest emphasis to mental health and social care - it feels unthinkable that the data and details well described within the newly established 'mental health taskforce' will not be given prominence in policy terms. Let's not forget it was the Conservatives who promoted the policy statement  'no health without mental health'.

  3. The Kings Fund have set out many views and advisory guidance on the need for mental health care to feature strongly in the next Governments delivery commitments.  The 12-page 'priorities for the next government' (1) document includes mental health as an issue for attention. They also promote mental health service improvements in 'transforming mental health' (2) and set out useful key areas in older papers on 'long term conditions and mental health' (3) and the 'mental health productivity challenge.(4)

  4. I am also of a mind to refer to two further key points for action and response regarding mental health care for the next government with the proviso, returning to my original point, of being positive. What the election outcome can mean for mental health is that we are where we are to coin a phrase and we must promote and advocate for optimism and confidence through positive campaigning for services and service users. 

My final 2 points are these:

  • For nurses and in particular mental health nurses, we need to be radical and up for the challenges ahead. Whether we want to call it austerity or simply the pressure of an ageing population, demands of complex needs and a diminishing workforce, the fact remains we are the custodians of frontline care. My recent piece in the current 'Mental Health Nursing Journal' explains my views in depth. (5)

  • Linked to the workforce challenges for mental health care I mentioned in a previous point the urgency to engage with the recent Health Education England review of nurse education 'raising the bar'. (6) This document sets out the implications of pressures on future proofing nurses and their essential part in are in the future of the NHS and social care. Mental health nurses must stand up and be counted and exert influence on how we achieve succession planning and capacity for future generations of nurses for the population - of whom 1/4 of us will experience a significant mental health problem in our lifetime.  

My final words are that we might be accused of being naive to be strong and hopeful in the face of change and uncertainty, but we can overcome this.  It's really about trust and faith in our futures providing we can actively participate in the debate, consultations and being a force for good regarding mental health care.  This part we do have control of.       


  1. Kings Fund (2014): 'Priorities for the Next Government'

  2. Kings Fund (2014): 'Transforming Mental Health'

  3. Naylor C et al on behalf of the Kings Fund (2012): 'Long Term Conditions and Mental Health'

  4. Naylor C, Bell A on behalf of the Kings Fund (2010): 'Mental Health and the Productivity Challenge'

  5. Coxon G (2015):  Mental Health Nursing Journal'Becoming a Radical Mental Health Nurse, What Does Good Look like?'  

  6. Health Education England (2015): 'Raising the Bar - Shape of Caring: A review of the future education and training of registered nurse and care assistants'

George Coxon, RMN -  or twitter @coxongeorge