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Mental Health Services

Volume 501: debated on Tuesday 24 November 2009

11. What steps his Department is taking to improve the level of access to mental health services. (300149)

As a result of nine consecutive years of increased spending, access to mental health services has never been higher. Many more staff, more community mental health services and increased access to psychological therapies have transformed services since 1997. Our vision for the future of mental health services and wider public mental well-being, which we are calling New Horizons, will be published shortly and will build on these remarkable achievements.

Lord Layard’s report recently revealed that there are more mentally ill people on incapacity benefit than there are unemployed people on all benefits put together. One in four people will have a mental illness at some stage during their life. However, the 18-week waiting time target applies only to physical ailments, not to mental illness. Why do the Government treat mental health problems as a Cinderella subject, especially when the new NHS constitution states:

“You have the right not to be unlawfully discriminated against in the provision of NHS services including on grounds of…mental health”?

I am pleased to be able to tell the hon. Gentleman that Cinderella has come to the ball. We have increased investment in mental health services by 50 per cent.—£2 billion—since 2001. We have more consultant psychiatrists, more clinical psychologists and more mental health nurses. That investment in the extra services means that individuals will be able to access the mental health services that they need, not least the psychological therapies that we are rolling out across the country, investment in which will rise to a total of £173 million by 2010-11.

During the passage of the Mental Health Act 2007, there were many discussions about providing places of safety, other than police stations, to which seriously mentally ill people could be taken. Has any progress been made on that, please?

Providing such places of safety for people outside police custody has been an important part of developing mental health services for the future, and we continue to drive forward progress in that area. If my hon. Friend has a particular issue in his constituency, I ask him please to write to me and I will be happy to take the matter forward with him.

The Government predicted that the number of community treatment orders needed in the first year of the Mental Health Act 2007 would be 600 to 800, yet in the past year there have been 4,000. That was therefore a gross under-prediction. Will the Minister investigate the impact of this massive under-prediction on the thousands of vulnerable people without sufficient safeguards in place and without sufficient support in the community?

I do not recognise the hon. Lady’s description of those services. It is true to say that there has been use of community treatment orders, but those orders can be made only when a clinician has made a decision that that is the safe and right thing to do, that there is support in the community, and that the individual can be recalled if necessary. That has happened on a number of occasions. I believe that the Mental Health Act has been a success, and that these new orders have provided new opportunities to treat people safely in the community and to keep the community safe.