Closing the mental health treatment gap

Burstow lecture 32

The College of Social Sciences were delighted to welcome over 100 guests for the inaugural lecture of Professor Paul Burstow, Professor of Mental Health Policy at the University of Birmingham.

Professor Burstow, former Minister of State for Care Services under the coalition government and current Chair of the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, discussed the current National Health Service (NHS) mental health provision before moving on to how this needs to radically change in order to meet future demands on the service.

To start, Professor Burstow discussed his own background in politics and his passionate support for mental health services, including his role in the ‘Time for Change’ campaign. This championing of mental health care continued beyond his time in Parliament, leading to the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust and subsequently into academia. As such, Professor Burstow’s discussion of the current state of mental health care was detailed. He explained how regional variation and a drive for economic efficiency is significantly impacting on care, in a system where half of primary care’s caseload is mental health-related. After delivering some stark statistics – including that 26% of UK adults reported having a mental health diagnosis, but a further 18% have experienced an undiagnosed issue (Health Survey for England 2014) – the professor led the audience through current research on the topic. This scholarship consistently supports the conclusion that more emphasis should be placed on education among young people and the importance of early intervention. In short, Professor Burstow is leading the call for a radical overhaul of current policy on mental health, focusing on long-term well-being for all in society.

Professor Burstow detailed that this need for change will form the basis of the Birmingham Policy Commission into mental health policy – how the UK’s healthcare system can move from an overstretched structure focused on crisis management and containment to an over-arching approach concerned with prevention and early intervention.

Professor Burstow was introduced by Professor Saul Becker, Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Social Sciences, and the lecture was closed by Professor Myra Nimmo, Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Life and Environmental Sciences.

For further information, please contact the College’s Communications team at

View the full lecture below: