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Mental Health Services

Volume 588: debated on Tuesday 25 November 2014

Parity of esteem has been set out in law, and we are delivering it for people. More than 2.6 million people have entered talking therapy treatment through the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies programme since 2008, and we have secured an additional £120 million over 2014-15 and 2015-16 to support the introduction of the first ever waiting time standards in mental health services.

According to the recent chief medical officer’s report, mental illness is responsible for 70 million sick days a year, at an estimated cost to the economy of around £100 billion a year, so parity of esteem is essential. What more can be done through early intervention to help people with mental health illness by preventing their chronic problems from becoming acute?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right about the importance of early interventions. Next year, we are introducing for the first time a six-week maximum waiting time standard for access to psychological therapies to start treatment for conditions such as anxiety and depression, and a two-week standard for starting treatment for those suffering a first episode of psychosis. I am also calling on every FTSE 100 company to sign up to Time to Change, so that they can show leadership in how they deal with their employees.

It is one thing to say it, but completely another to do it. I am sure that the whole House will recognise improvements that happen, but does the Minister understand the scale of the crisis, not simply in the NHS but in the education system where more and more young people are increasingly finding that they simply cannot get anything like the support they need at increasingly difficult points in their lives?

I completely agree with the hon. Gentleman about the importance of children and young people being able to access treatment and support. If the truth be known, it has always been like this. It has always been the Cinderella of the Cinderella service, which is why we established a taskforce this summer, bringing in a whole load of experts and, importantly, consulting children and young people so that we can develop a modern health service for the mental health problems of children and young people. We hope to report early next year.

19. As the Cabinet taskforce sets out on this important work, will the Minister reassure me that it will bear in mind the important finding of the Health Committee’s inquiry into CAMHS—Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services—that it is the tier 1 and tier 2 services that really make the difference in preventing the need to access the service when children are much more unwell? (906238)

I very much appreciated and supported the findings of the Health Select Committee report into children and young people’s mental health services. The hon. Lady is absolutely right that we need to focus far more on preventing ill health and preventing a deterioration of it. If we can get into schools and work much better at maintaining people’s mental well-being, we can achieve much better results.

Despite what the Minister says, in South Shields, financial challenges have contributed to the closure of Bede wing mental health ward. This means that acute in-patient services are no longer provided in our borough. Can the Minister explain why mental health services are, in fact, being eroded under this Government?

Over the past decade and a half, there has been a very substantial reduction in bed numbers, and it is a trend that we should thoroughly support because we want to move away from institutional care towards supporting people at home in their communities. With children’s mental health, we have invested an extra £7 million this year to ensure that children get access to beds close to home when they need them.

Will the Minister ensure that the taskforce he mentioned considers the evidence that one in five mothers suffers from mental health problems during pregnancy or within a year of giving birth because the costs of that to society are massive and three quarters of those costs are borne by the child and subsequent generations? Is it not time to make sure that we focus on perinatal mental health because it can make such a big difference?

I very much agree with my right hon. Friend. Accompanied by my hon. Friend the Member for Torbay (Mr Sanders), I visited a brilliant perinatal mental health service in Torbay recently. My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. The London School of Economics has done a lot of work, showing evidence that if we invest in perinatal mental health, we get a return on the investment, but most importantly, we change people’s lives. I am determined to pursue that.

The Minister talks about parity of esteem, but it is under this Government that mental health budgets have been unfairly cut, and 1,500 beds and 3,300 nurses have been lost. He has already received a damning Select Committee report on child and adolescent mental health services. Ill people are being locked in police cells, or are travelling hundreds of miles to find a bed. The Minister could not have brought about more disparity if he had tried—and now we hear that there is to be yet another review. He is the Minister in charge. I ask him again: what action is he going to take today?

Inexplicably, when the last Labour Government introduced access and waiting time standards, they left out mental health. That was an extraordinary decision, and it drives where the money goes. The introduction of mental health waiting time standards next year, for the first time ever, will help to achieve equality for mental health. We have also published a vision of the next five years explaining how we will secure genuine equality for mental health, which is something that the last Labour Government did not achieve.

The Minister will know that the statutory guidance of the adult autism strategy in England is the keystone of the provision of services under the Autism Act 2009. The updating of that guidance is now imminent, and concern has been expressed to me about the draft wording produced by the Department. Can the Minister assure me that the Department does not intend to weaken the requirements for local authorities to provide services for people with autism and their families?

I am delighted that my right hon. Friend has become chair of the all-party parliamentary group on autism. She has fought for many years to secure a fair deal for people with autism. I am grateful to her for alerting me to the issue that she has raised, and I shall be sure to look at the guidance. It is absolutely not the intention to water down guidance for local authorities in any way.