5. Conclusion and next steps

We advocate for the importance of data and statistics – that is our role as the regulator of official statistics across the UK. At a time of proposed service and digital transformation across mental health and wider health landscape – there must be sufficient and appropriate resource and infrastructure to implement the changes successfully. Otherwise, questions around mental health will remain unanswered, the evidence base will continue to be incomplete and important decisions will be less informed.

Mental health care has been recognised as a key priority by the NI Executive and there is a positive momentum and drive in Northern Ireland to improve mental health care for the better, beyond the COVID-pandemic. There are many positive developments to highlight – the publication of a new 10 year Mental Health Strategy and accompanying funding plan by the Department of Health (NI) in June 2021, the digitalisation of the healthcare record and the appetite of those we spoke to – key stakeholders in making ambitions a reality.

Our recommendations set out the key objectives for the Department of Health (NI) to address. We want to make clear that we understand that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on resourcing and that continued support will be prioritised in response to the pandemic. Due to this, we have not set a specific deadline and will liaise with the Senior Statistician in the Department of Health (NI) to monitor progress over time.

We will continue to support innovation and improvements in data capture, analysis and dissemination. We will continue our engagement with the Department of Health (NI) as the new Mental Health Strategy is implemented and we will advocate for better statistics to reflect the true extent and experience of those with mental health problems.

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