Thousands more people with mental health problems are to receive support finding a job, it has been announced.

A scheme aiming to help patients hoping to get back into work will be rolled out to 28 new local NHS areas, NHS England said.

Around 55,000 people could have access to the service every year in five years’ time, it added.

Prime Minister’s Questions
Prime Minister Theresa May says the scheme will help make the UK a world leader in the care of people with mental ill health (Victoria Jones/PA)

Prime Minister 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 is expected to double to 20,000 people per year by 2020-21 and help 55,000 annually by 2023-24, NHS England said.

Patients who want to return to work can be referred by their doctor or a mental health professional, or self-refer.

Under the scheme, they receive advice from employment specialists, as well as tips on finding a job and preparing for interviews.

The experts can also search for jobs on a patient’s behalf to help find suitable roles.

Claire Murdoch, NHS England 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.

“As the NHS long-term plan makes clear – stable employment is a major factor in maintaining good health and is an important outcome for recovery.

“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: “We welcome the expansion of IPS specialists and team leaders to help people with serious mental illnesses who want to get into work and stay in a job.

“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.

“Most areas of the country lack the provision of effective schemes to support people with mental health conditions into work.

“We have solid evidence from many studies worldwide that one approach, IPS, can substantially increase the chances of people with mental health conditions to successfully gain employment.

“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.”