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Mental Health Care

Volume 517: debated on Tuesday 2 November 2010

1. What recent discussions he has had on the likely effects on mental health patients of changes to health care provision arising from the comprehensive spending review. (20928)

The Government confirmed their determination to protect the most vulnerable in our society by protecting both the NHS and social care in the recent spending review. The Chancellor also announced funding to expand access to talking therapies.

Can the Minister give assurances that the Department of Health is having full discussions with the Department for Work and Pensions about the problems that those with mental health problems experience in returning to work?

I thank my hon. Friend for that question. I can certainly assure him that those discussions are ongoing and regular, and that we work very closely with colleagues, both ministerial and official, in the DWP. Indeed, we are evaluating two of the Department’s collaborative projects on employment advisers working with people recovering from depression and anxiety disorders.

The Rokerfield mental health day care centre in my constituency is under threat of closure. Does the Minister share my disappointment that the county council cabinet members responsible for making that decision have all ignored my invitation to speak to service users before coming to their decision? Will he urge them to visit users first?

I thank the hon. Lady for her question. I am sure she would agree that it is important that we ensure that there is adequate funding in social care so that it is possible to continue to support services of this sort. That is why I am sure she would join me in thanking the Chancellor for the statement he made two weeks ago, when he confirmed that an additional £2 billion will be invested in social care. On her specific question, I will look at the matter in closer detail and write to her.

My hon. Friend will be aware of the number of people in the criminal justice system with severe mental health problems—they make up some 15%, according to the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health. In my area of Dudley and Walsall, almost 2,000 people are on probation or in prison, yet only 40—just 2.5%—are in contact with mental health services. Will he discuss with his colleagues in the Ministry of Justice what we can do to improve that situation?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that question, which underscores the legacy that the Government have been left in terms of the paucity of these services as they are now and why we need to work closely with colleagues in the Ministry of Justice, as indeed we are doing, to ensure that we provide good quality mental health support for offenders, both in prison and when they leave it.

Can the Minister assure us that he will encourage his departmental colleagues to ensure that, despite the influence of the comprehensive spending review, the confidential inquiry and the learning disabilities public health observatory will go beyond March and until the work is concluded?

The right hon. Gentleman does a lot of work in the area of learning disability. Indeed, we had a good debate in Westminster Hall earlier this year on this matter, in which I indicated the Government’s support for those observatories. We believe they play a very important role in our understanding of the issues.