A conference that took place in the North East this month, has attracted both local speakers and a host of national experts to address some of the key issues surrounding mental health.

The 2018 Academic Health Science Network North East and North Cumbria’s (AHSN NENC) Mental Health Summit saw almost 150 healthcare professionals from across the North East and North Cumbria gather to discuss how to best drive innovation, share best practice and address the challenges and solutions to improve mental health outcomes.

It comes  at a time when mental health problems represent the largest single cause of disability in the UK, with one in four adults experiencing at least one diagnosable mental health problem in any given year.

The one-day event was delivered in partnership with organisations including NHS England and Public Health England North East to address a wide ranging audience including: GPs, psychiatric and mental health nurses, directors, service managers and team leaders of adult mental health services, commissioners for adult mental health services, support workers, as well as representatives from police, third sector and Local Authorities, to discuss areas such as wellbeing, prevention and recovery.

Keynote speakers included Claire Murdoch, National Mental Health Director for NHS England, who has more than 30 years of experience working in mental health; Steve Baker, Force Lead for Mental Health at Northumbria Police and Rt Honourable Norman Lamb, MP for North Norfolk whose personal connection to mental illness has spurred him on to tirelessly campaign in the interests of improvement.

Speaking from the heart Norman underlined the need to drive up the standards in UK mental health services. He said: “Mental health issues affect people from all walks of life and in so many different ways. Our experiences as a family have made me even more determined to raise awareness of the issues and campaign for greater investment and better support for people who have a mental illness.

“Much more needs to be done to ensure that people suffering from mental health problems are given the same level of treatment as people suffering from other illnesses. It’s not right that we’re seeing many people with mental health conditions dying prematurely.

“Across the board, there are many people in our communities living in distress and it’s vital that the resource we have available is put to best use, to better help those people and improve outcomes for anyone suffering.”

Providing a national perspective on the topic, Claire Murdoch, National Mental Health Director at NHS England discussed the five year plan for mental health underlining the key priorities for the NHS and gave insight into successful models of care taking place throughout the UK.

Claire said: “Progress is being made in areas such as our mental health workforce but we all have a duty to collectively pool our skills and our talent to in order to reach our 2021 targets.

“We are particularly worried about certain sections of society, for example young men, where rates of suicide are higher. By introducing more Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programmes we hope to reduce suicide rates by 10% by 2021.”

The Summit is the result of a collaboration between the Academic Health Science Network North East and North Cumbria (AHSN NENC), the Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP) North East and North Cumbria Mental Health Programme, NHS England Mental Health Strategic Clinical Network and Public Health England North East.

The Senior Clinicians from Northumberland, Tyne & Wear NHS Foundation Trust, Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust and Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust were all also present at the event to discuss the priorities for the North East and North Cumbria from a clinical perspective.

Seamus O’Neill, Chief Executive of the AHSN NENC, said: “We were delighted to host this ground-breaking event that explored the ways we can continue working together to make change happen in mental health.

“We know that the number of people with a serious mental illness who are dying earlier than the rest of the population is too high. It’s vitally important that we work with our healthcare partners and the wider community to support better health outcomes for people with a mental illness.

“In the North East and North Cumbria, our mental health programme is working hard to address regional priorities and contribute to the national agenda for mental healthcare reform. We’re committed to a joined up approach to drive innovation in mental health and take positive steps forward.”

The AHSN NENC’s Mental Health programme was established in 2015 and has been identified as a priority by the AHSN NENC to improve healthcare by sharing spreading and adapting innovations in care services.

For more information, visit: http://www.ahsn-nenc.org.uk/programmes/mental-health/