Thousands more people in England with mental health problems are to receive support finding a job, it has been announced.
A scheme aimed at helping patients who wish to return to work will be rolled out to 28 new local NHS areas, NHS England said.
Around 55,000 people a year could have access to the service within five years, it added.
Theresa May said: “Helping those with mental ill health back into work is one of the best ways to ensure their health and happiness in the long-term. This scheme is another important step forward in achieving that goal.
“The government is working hard to ensure genuine parity of esteem between physical and mental health conditions, and our long-term plan will make the NHS a world leader in the care and support we provide to those who need it.”
Access to the individual placement support (IPS) service was expected to double to 20,000 people a year by 2020-21 and 55,000 by 2023-24, NHS England said.
Patients who wanted to return to work could be referred by their doctor, a mental health professional, or themselves.
Under the scheme, they would receive advice from employment specialists, as well as tips on finding a job and preparing for interviews. The experts could also search for jobs on a patient’s behalf.
Claire Murdoch, NHS England’s national mental health director, said: “The goals and aspirations of someone living with severe mental illness are the same as anyone else’s – steady employment and an active life …
“Those in work tend to be in better health, visit their GP less and are less likely to need hospital treatment, which is good for individuals themselves as well as being better for the economy.”
Dr Jed Boardman, from the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “People with long-term and severe mental health conditions face many barriers when looking for open employment and are mostly excluded from the benefits that a good job can offer for their personal recovery.”
He said most areas of England did not have effective schemes tohelp people with mental health conditions into work but there was solid evidence that IPS could substantially increase their chances.
“Crucial to the success of the rollout of the IPS employment specialists will be the recruitment of an enthusiastic and skilled workforce who are well-trained and supported.”