South Ribble – Supporting mental health provision in the local business population

The collaborative working of the South Ribble partnership and the Lancashire Mental Health to Businesses (MH2B) Building Blocks Partnership has allowed South Ribble to be a representative sample of the wider Lancashire area, meaning that the focus on the development can be on a much smaller area, with recommendations able to be rolled out over a larger area.


Background

Mental health is an issue which is becoming increasingly prominent. These conditions can be caused by a variety of systemic issues, including stress, discrimination and financial concerns, among other things. The result is a marked effect on those who suffer, often impacting the ability to attain and maintain employment. For those who do maintain employment, there is often an issue around presenteeism and a resulting reduction in productivity in the workplace. Overall, research has found that mental health conditions have a £35 billion impact on employers per year in the UK[1]. Mental health is an issue in both South Ribble and Lancashire, with around 15 – 16 per cent of those over 16 years of age having a common mental health disorder. This has therefore been identified as a major contributor to the regional productivity gap, and a significant issue to solve.

Both South Ribble and Lancashire are particularly interested in tackling these issues, and have developed partnerships with relevant stakeholders, including local businesses, the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), the NHS Innovation Agency and others. These partnerships will be used to feed into a county-wide and South Ribble improvement strategy in mental health awareness and support and will assist in raising awareness of mental health conditions amongst local businesses.

The challenge faced stems from the varied and often confusing nature of mental health support on offer, which can dissuade local businesses from offering appropriate and complete support to their employees. The impact of this is that some businesses, particularly SMEs struggle with finding appropriate provision for their workforce. A further issue is limited awareness of the impact of mental health on the workforce, and the corresponding impact on productivity.

Therefore, the aim is to have a local response to addressing mental health, helping to get people with mental health concerns into employment and ensuring that there is sufficient mental health support provision in workplaces to maintain employment and productivity and to reduce presenteeism.


The approach they are taking

The approach to improving the mental health provision in Lancashire is being carried out over multiple stages. The first stage is the creation of a report on mental health which identifies issues and makes recommendations on how to improve the provision for businesses in Lancashire.

While the final recommendations will be discussed at county level, the report will be focussed on South Ribble as a broadly representative part of Lancashire. The initial work needs to ensure that South Ribble is sufficiently representative of Lancashire in several key areas, including population, labour force projection, employment across sectors and deprivation. This ‘insight report’ by Lancashire County Council found that South Ribble was representative of the Lancashire area in all comparators except deprivation, however, this difference was deemed small enough for South Ribble to be broadly representative.

The next step of the process was to map the mental health provision, both public and private, to determine how many schemes are available to employers, and the specific offer of these schemes. This involved grouping the mental health offer by different types to identify where the offer is primarily targeted.

Finally, a survey of businesses was carried out to determine whether businesses had mental health support, what type of support they offered to their workforce and whether they would want to provide more support. This survey showed that, in general, businesses are very receptive to mental health support. While around a third did not have mental health support, many were willing to increase their support if there was an easy and accessible option to do so.

These outputs were then used to develop a report on mental health provision in South Ribble for presentation and discussion at two workshops which the council hopes to hold in the near future. The first workshop is planned for South Ribble Council and the South Ribble Partnership to develop an action plan for further work on mental health provision in the Borough. The second workshop would be at a Lancashire level, working with partners including the LEP, Job Centre, the Clinical Commissioning Group and private businesses.

Taking these discussions further and ensuring that achievable actions are developed and undertaken will be an essential next step in the process, following the recommendations proposed in the paper, including better signposting, the creation of a Lancashire mental health charter, and raising awareness of mental health to ensure those with mental health conditions are not stuck outside of the workforce.


Learning

The collaborative working of the South Ribble partnership and the Lancashire Mental Health to Businesses (MH2B) Building Blocks Partnership has allowed South Ribble to be a representative sample of the wider Lancashire area, meaning that the focus on the development can be on a much smaller area, with recommendations able to be rolled out over a larger area.

Another key piece of learning from this has been the need to engage and collaborate with businesses, public sector organisations and others to identify potential issues in local areas which may not always be reflected in all of the available data. This is particularly relevant for South Ribble as there is comparatively high employment rates which masks systemic issues around mental health and presenteeism.


[1] https://www.centreformentalhealth.org.uk/sites/default/files/2018-09/CentreforMentalHealth_Mental_health_problems_in_the_workplace.pdf