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Mental Health Services

Volume 598: debated on Tuesday 7 July 2015

6. What progress the Government have made on achieving parity of esteem for physical and mental health services. (900781)

7. What progress the Government have made on achieving parity of esteem for physical and mental health services. (900782)

15. What progress the Government have made on achieving parity of esteem for physical and mental health services. (900790)

The Government take mental health as seriously as physical health. We have introduced legislation to ensure parity of esteem, and with additional investment and the first access and waiting standards for mental health, we will hold to account and work with the NHS to achieve that aim.

There is understandable scepticism across the mental health sector about whether real-terms funding for mental health services has increased over recent years. In the interests of transparency, will the Minister commit to report on the levels of funding for mental health services that are provided nationally and to clinical commissioning groups, so that my constituents can have confidence that the Government are serious about achieving that parity of esteem?

I am happy to do that. There was an increase of £302 million in mental health spending in 2014-15, and there is an injunction on CCGs to ensure that a proportionate amount of any additional money they receive goes to mental health services. That is as transparent as it has ever been, and we will ensure that that standard is maintained.

Mental health budget cuts have hit us hard locally. I hope that the Minister will join me in paying tribute to the work of the Anthony Seddon Fund, which has raised thousands of pounds for mental health and wellbeing projects in Tameside and Failsworth? Will he promise real parity of esteem and pledge to increase mental health spending, not to cut it?

I refer the hon. Lady to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Matthew Pennycook). Mental health funding is increasing, and parity of esteem is demonstrated by having access targets and targets for waiting times for the first time. Those measures could have been introduced by a previous Government but they were not, and the demonstration of parity of esteem shown by that legislation and by the increase in investment should help to reassure the hon. Lady’s constituents. I pay tribute to those who work in a voluntary capacity to assist those with mental health issues.

In the previous Parliament the Education Select Committee said that child and adolescent mental health services were not fit for purpose, and it called them a “national scandal”. The situation is getting worse, with children and families left for up to five months without appointments. What is the Minister doing to deal with that national scandal?

The way that children and young persons’ mental health services have been handled over a lengthy period has been extremely poor, and many MPs have similar concerns on behalf of their constituents. That is why one of my major priorities for this Parliament is to build on the good work of the previous coalition Government, with £1.25 billion to be spent on transforming care services for children and young persons—a commitment that I think the Labour party would struggle to match.

Despite the excellent work done over the past two decades, does my right hon. Friend agree that the challenge facing us all—not only in government but among members of the public—is to end the disgraceful stigma that is associated with mental ill health, and break down the barriers of prejudice so that people suffering from mental ill health are treated in the same way as those suffering from a physical infirmity?

My right hon. Friend is correct. The damage that has been done over many years by not regarding mental ill health as seriously as it should be regarded, and by not having that parity of esteem, has been immense. The campaigns that have been launched against stigma, often fronted by brave people—including some in this House—have done much to correct that, but he is correct to say that the campaign against stigmatisation must continue.

The first NHS point of contact for many people with mental health issues is often their GP. Does my right hon. Friend agree that it remains vital that GPs and primary care staff have proper understanding and training in mental health care, and more broadly that such training forms a greater part of medical qualification and training?

Last Wednesday I spoke to 2,500 psychiatrists—if colleagues think that this audience is scary they should try speaking in front of them. The chairman of the Royal College of Psychiatrists said that there had been an increase in the uptake of the psychiatry training given to doctors before they enter general practice, which was leading to a greater interest in mental health issues. I entirely agree with my hon. Friend: it is important that such training exists because that first point of contact with GPs is crucial.

To build on that greater awareness and understanding of mental health among general practitioners, will the Minister look at ways in which we can rebalance mental health care away from an overreliance on acute care towards greater and more consistent primary care?

Yes, and the adaptation of new and innovative therapies will also assist. Ensuring that GPs are aware of the increased access to psychological talking therapies is making a huge difference. Initial reactions to that programme indicate that, since 2008, nearly 3 million people have had access, 1.7 million have completed their treatment, and 1 million have recovered. Increased awareness of that in primary care will be very important.

Last month’s Care Quality Commission report revealed serious shortcomings in emergency mental health care, including that too many people do not have access to urgent help around the clock. The lead mental health inspector said that those findings must act as a wake-up call. How is the Minister ensuring that people in a mental health emergency get the same support that we would expect them to get in a physical health emergency?

The extremely important report to which the hon. Lady refers was commissioned by the Government. It described the crisis care concordat, which is at the heart of dealing with mental health crises, as a “remarkable initiative”. It states:

“An extraordinary range of public services and other bodies have acknowledged their responsibilities”.

For me, it serves as a baseline for what we should do. The word “efficiency” is pointed out, not least in respect of A&E treatment of those with mental health crises. I regard it as a very good base on which to work and to gauge the success of what we do to deal with mental health crisis care over the next few years. I commend the crisis care concordat—it is in operation all over the country—as a first step towards ensuring that the sort of treatment we want in mental health crises becomes the norm.