Health experts in London are worried that people suffering with mental illness are in danger of moving out of the world of work forever unless organisations recognise the business benefits of supporting their workers going through tough times.

With 900,000 working age Londoners (one in six of the current 18-64 year old population of 5.4m) experiencing mental health problems every year, investment in health and support services is more crucial than ever.

At the House of Lords event hosted by Baroness Julia Cumberledge, the London Mental Health and Employment Partnership launched ‘Work, Mental Health and Welfare’, which sets out the compelling case for coordinated action between the NHS, councils, work programme providers and private business – of all sizes.

The document sets out a solid business case for helping staff remain in work when they’re experiencing mental illness or getting those with long term problems back into the workplace.

“While the NHS and other public services are changing rapidly, they will retain responsibility to support the most vulnerable in society. It is crucial that commissioners do not forget the important effect services which support mental and emotional wellbeing have on individuals and families. Prioritising such services – alongside the promotion of healthy workplaces – really can produce vibrant local economies” states Michael Bell, vice chair of NHS London and chair of the London Mental Health and Employment Partnership.

Influential leaders, including the new health service commissioners, from across the capital were told that protecting the funding of mental health interventions during periods of economic pressure delivers significant savings to the public purse and company balance sheets. Employment and mental health are intrinsically linked with strong evidence that work is actually good for an individual’s wellbeing, with unemployment a real threat to long term recovery, so keeping people employed is a ‘win win’ situation.

“A GP’s workload can include as much as 30% of patients with mental illness, and many experience high unemployment, social exclusion and significant physical ill health as a result. The new clinical commissioning groups should make mental health a priority. We need to work with other agencies to support patients’ mental health and employment needs” reports Dr Haren Patel, chairman of Hackney & The City CCG and vice chair of the London Mental Health and Employment Partnership.

It is estimated that mental ill health in England costs the economy over £105.2bn a year, with lost economic output costing £30.3bn and health and social care costs £21.3bn
“Investing in management training to improve our capacity and capability to respond to mental health problems at work is important for our business. Not only does it help line managers intervene early it boosts productivity too, and is an important part of a well structured health and well being programme” says Glenn Laming, employer services director, Legal & General