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Mental Health Taskforce

Volume 606: debated on Tuesday 23 February 2016

(Urgent Question): To ask the Secretary of State for Health to make a statement on the Government’s response to the final report of the independent Mental Health Taskforce.

Achieving parity of esteem for mental and physical health remains a priority for this Government. I appreciate the hon. Lady’s raising of the urgent question this afternoon. We welcomed the independent Mental Health Taskforce launched by NHS England last year, with its remit to explore the variation in the availability of mental health services across England, to look at the outcomes for people who are using services, and to identify key priorities for improvement.

The taskforce, chaired by Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind—I thank him, the vice-chair, Jacqui Dyer, and the whole team for the remarkable work they did—also considered ways of promoting positive mental health and wellbeing, ways of improving the physical health of people with mental health problems, and whether we are spending money and time on the right things.

The publication of the taskforce’s report earlier this month marked the first time a national strategy has been designed in partnership with all the health-related arm’s length bodies in order to deliver change across the system. This also demonstrated the remarkable way in which society, the NHS and this House now regard mental health and how it should be seen and approached.

This Government have made great strides in the way we think about and treat mental health in this country. We have given the NHS more money than ever before and are introducing access and waiting-time targets for the first time. We have made it clear that local NHS services must follow our lead by increasing the amount they spend on mental health and making sure that beds are always available. Despite those improvements, however—and I referred earlier to the way in which we view these matters—the taskforce pulled no punches. It produced a frank assessment of the state of current mental health care throughout the NHS, pointing out that one in four people would experience a mental health problem during their lifetime, and that the cost of mental ill health to the economy, the NHS and society was £105 billion a year.

We can all agree that the human and financial cost of inadequate care is unacceptable. The Department of Health therefore welcomes the report’s publication, and will work with NHS England and other partners to establish a plan for implementing its recommendations. To make those recommendations a reality, we will spend an extra £1 billion by 2020-21 to improve access to mental health services, so that people can receive the right care in the right place when they need it most. That will mean increasing the number of people completing talking therapies by nearly three quarters, from 468,000 to 800,000; more than doubling the number of pregnant women or new mothers receiving mental health support, from 12,000 to 42,000 a year; training about 1,700 new therapists; and helping 29,000 more people to find or stay in work through individual placement support and talking therapies.

I assure all Members that they will have ample opportunities to ask questions and debate issues as we work together to implement the taskforce’s recommendations.

The final report of the Mental Health Taskforce, commissioned by NHS England, provides a frank assessment of the state of mental health care, and describes a system that is “ruining” some people’s lives. It contains a number of recommendations which, if implemented in full, could make a significant difference to services that have had to contend with funding cuts and staff shortages at a time of rising demand, leaving too many vulnerable people without the right care and support.

It is extremely disappointing that the Opposition have had to compel the Minister to come to the Chamber today to ensure that Parliament can give the report and the Government’s response to it the attention and scrutiny that they deserve. It is all the more regrettable because the Prime Minister himself chose to announce their response to the media during last week’s recess—a courtesy which, had it not been for the urgent question, would still not have been afforded to the House. The Government’s apparent announcements included the announcement of a supposed “additional” £1 billion of investment by 2020, but a number of vital questions remain unanswered.

Will the Minister explain why the report was delayed and published during the recess? Did Ministers or No. 10 have a say in the timing, and, if so, does the Minister accept that such a level of interference on the part of Ministers raises questions about the independence of the report? Can the Minister confirm that no additional money will be allocated from the Treasury to fund what the Government have announced, and that it will be funded from the £8 billion that has already been set aside for the NHS to receive by 2020? Given that mental health is given just under 10% of the total NHS budget, surely mental health services would have expected to receive much of that additional money as part of the NHS settlement anyway. Can the Minister explain how the money can be expected to deliver the “transformation” in our mental health services that the taskforce says is urgently required?

Can the Minister also confirm that he is accepting all the recommendations relating to the NHS? Does he intend to respond to the other recommendations, and when can we expect that response? As the report makes clear, we do not solve the challenges of our nation’s mental health by means of the Department of Health.

On behalf of the many thousands of people who have been let down by the Government, who are desperate to see a change in the way in which we approach mental health, and who are owed a full explanation from the Government of their response to this damning report, I look forward to the Minister’s reply.

I thank the hon. Lady for her questions, which give me an opportunity to say still more about what we are doing in relation to mental health and how far it has come since 2010. For instance, she could have pointed out that 1,400 more people a day have access to mental health treatment than had access to it in that year, simply as a matter of comparison between what was done then and what is done now. However, it is absolutely right to make the essential point that there is more to be done—a view that we share—and that is what the report did.

The timing of the report was not up to the Government. It is an independent report, commissioned by the NHS from an independent taskforce, and the timing and the content were decided by the taskforce. I had the occasional meeting with Paul Farmer about it. I made sure to speak to him to say, “This is absolutely your report. Forget the guff in the papers about who wants what in the report and all that; this is yours and it’s got to be yours”—and it is absolutely clear that it was. The decision to publish it was theirs. The Prime Minister was able to respond, which was great, and that emphasises again the importance given to this issue now, as compared with times past.

On the finance, the important thing to note is that the Prime Minister announced in January how the £600 million in the spending review, which is included in the NHS bottom line until 2021, would be spent. That included the new money for perinatal mental health, crisis care, psychiatric liaison in A&E and the crisis care community work. What was said by the Prime Minister in relation to the taskforce report represents new money that will be available for the NHS and mental health by 2021. That will be £1 billion extra by 2021, with the additional number of people to be treated that I outlined.

I spoke to the taskforce after the issuing of the report. I do not particularly want just to produce a response to the taskforce report; I said that I would prefer a series of rolling responses, as it were, so that when we have responded to a recommendation and when we are moving on and delivering on it, I would say so. That will come in a variety of different forms, but will be related to what the taskforce has done. That may well involve announcements to Parliament, whether by written ministerial statements or other means. I did not want one big bang of a response, as it were, because the Prime Minister has already said that we will accept the recommendations, as they go with the grain of what the Government were going to do anyway. I wanted to give an indication that the report will not just sit on a shelf gathering dust. By making constant reference to it when we do something—saying, “This is a response to what the taskforce said we should be doing towards 2021”—it can get the stamp of support and recognition, which is important.

On the hon. Lady’s claim that thousands have been let down, again I would gently remind her that this Government were the first Government to set waiting times for physical and mental health—a chance missed by the hon. Lady’s Government when they were in office and set physical health waiting time limits. It is this Government who have actually made the commitment of £10 billion extra to the NHS, a commitment never made by her or her party. It is very easy for people to talk about new things in mental health when they do not have a budget or an economic team producing anything of any credibility, but this Government have got the responsibilities and are doing the work.

We are absolutely agreed that the state of mental health services cries out for more to be done; we have said that, and that is what we are doing. The direction of travel and the physical delivery is happening on a day-by-day basis. We will do more; we will continue to work together to do more, and I welcome the hon. Lady and her team’s very regular pressure on me and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to continue to do more. We will meet that challenge—and we are meeting it in a way that no Government have ever met it before.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend and the whole of the Government health team on their personal commitment to this issue. Does my right hon. Friend accept that those who suffer from mental ill health are often poor advocates of their own cause, and that it is very easy for money to be diverted into other areas of healthcare spending where others are able to shout louder for the money? Will he and his Front-Bench team consider whether it is possible to ring-fence the NHS budget for mental health care so that it does not become the Cinderella subject in the future that it has been too often in the past?

I thank my right hon. Friend for the question and his own personal interest and work in this area. He, like me, has come across this conundrum: we talk from the Dispatch Box about more money going into mental health and then we go to areas and they say, “Well, it’s not happening here.” That has been a genuine reality that we need to do something about. We are being more hands-on towards clinical commissioning groups and having a more transparent system of examining their finances. In addition, guidance from the NHS says that it expects the increase in finance to the NHS to go proportionately to mental health services and we have now given specific commitments to the series of services announced by the Prime Minister and contained in these recommendations. In that way, we hope to make sure that the diversion of funds that has happened in the past will not happen in the future. Local areas will thus feel that they, too, must ensure that they have the share of the resource.

All of us in the House welcome the strides made in changing the stigma around mental health, and people have been brave enough to speak out. In Scotland, we had the “See me” campaign, which was about seeing the person, not the condition.

Despite all the great talk, the money has often not gone to the services. Mental health trusts suffered a 2% cut in their budget between 2013 and 2015, and the number of psychiatric nurses decreased by 1.4%. The right hon. Member for North Somerset (Dr Fox) talked about money often ending up somewhere else, and we must avoid that. We need also to focus on children, because one in 10 of our children suffer from mental health problems between the ages of five and 16, and they are waiting a very long time to get help. We face the same challenge in Scotland. We measure it, we know how difficult it is to deal with, and we have managed to improve things by increasing staff and funding, but we also have a long road to walk.

One thing we are not doing enough is thinking about the whole spread of mental health support out into the community and about the way people work: people having insecure jobs; and people struggling to keep a roof over their head. Later, we are going to debate welfare reforms, and mental health issues arise from that. Three times as many poor children will have a mental health issue as children who are in a stable and well-financed family. Are we not going to try to join up our decisions and look at our other policy areas, in terms of how people work, how people are supported, and the mental health suffering that comes from the lack of that?

I thank the hon. Lady for her usual well-informed contribution to the debate on these issues, and for what she says about stigma and the general approach the Government have been taking. She is absolutely right about that. We have supported the Time to Change anti-stigma campaign, which has had some success, although we have to do more.

The hon. Lady is also right about children and wider cross-government work. On children and young people, for the first time we have a Minister in the Department for Education in England who has responsibilities for mental health, and the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire Moorlands (Karen Bradley) is here to demonstrate that we take those cross-government responsibilities very seriously. One way in which we are going to manage the response to the taskforce is by having a cross-governmental team to make sure that Departments are joined up. Housing has something to do with this, as do education and work and pensions, as the hon. Lady said. We will make sure that that is done.

I should have said, but did not do so for reasons of time, that what has been said by the taskforce and what the Prime Minister has said is in addition to the £1.25 billion announced in March for the development of the child and adolescent mental health services in England and the £30 million a year eating disorder work, in order to recognise the increased pressures on children. As the hon. Lady rightly says, the more prevention work that can be done earlier, the better.

I remind the House that I am married to the registrar of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. I join the Minister in thanking the independent mental health taskforce for the work it has done. Will he go further on how we are going to track this money, with greater transparency, to ensure it is spent in the right place, not just within health, but within social care? He will know that many of those who are suffering from mental health problems are cared for in the community, under social care, and it is therefore vital that we have parity of esteem across both health and social care.

Yes, I thank my hon. Friend for that and recognise the work of the royal college. Its president, Simon Wessely, was also much involved in the report, as was the college, so I thank them for that. It is very important to track this money. The CCG assessment framework will help us to do that through the health service. The money that the Prime Minister announced in relation to community crisis care—the extra £400 million announced in January—will be spent throughout the community, and it is essential that we track it.

There has been a data lack; the hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Luciana Berger) knows about that well, because I answer far too many of her questions by saying, “This information is not collected” or, “This information is not collected centrally”. [Interruption.] I have noticed that. We are in the process of changing that situation; the dataset was in the process of being changed and more information will be available. In order to track things properly, we have to have the information available. The question is right and we are improving the data. It is important to track this, both in local authority work and in NHS work.

I know that the right hon. Gentleman will take it in the right spirit when I say that it is immensely encouraging that he notices his own answers.

Parity of esteem and extra resources are important, but one of the main messages from this report is that we need to hard-wire mental health and well-being into public policy. Twice as many people take their own lives as are killed on our roads each year. Does the Minister agree that it is now time for a national campaign to address this issue?

Yes, I do, and I thank the hon. Gentleman for his comments and for his work and interest in this area. Included in the taskforce’s recommendations is a national ambition to reduce by 10% the number of suicides—that would be a reduction of some 400 a year. Three areas are already piloting a “zero suicide ambition strategy”, and this probably needs to be given more prominence than it has been. A national suicide prevention strategy is in place, which I am reviewing to see how it can be better implemented locally, because not all local areas have a similar strategy. It is right that that gets extra prominence, and we had a debate on it not too long ago in Westminster Hall. We recognise that it is a significant issue for men in particular, because three times as many men as women take their own lives. The recent increase in the number of women doing so, which was noted just a few weeks ago, is also significant. It is important that we talk about this more, recognise that suicide is not inevitable, and have a national ambition to challenge it and do more. I am confident that the hon. Gentleman will be able to champion that work, just as he has championed other things.

It is a very sad fact that in healthcare those professionals who add the most to the service do not necessarily receive the same acclamation as those working in more glamorous specialties. What does the Minister think can be done to improve the status of those working in mental healthcare and thus mental healthcare as an attractive career option?

That is a good question. It is very important that true value is given to those who work in such an area, at all levels. When we have seen examples of poor-quality care and the tragedies that have occurred, we realise the value placed on those who display kindness as well as skill and demonstrate their qualifications. We need to talk about the quality of good care. We need to make sure that people who go into these professions have a career path, whatever their entry level. We want to encourage greater psychiatric awareness in medical training and clinical medical training for those who are leaving medical schools. Again, I know that Simon Wessely of the royal college has done much work in this area. We should emphasise that those who care for those in the most distressed situations, be they in hospital, community or specialist services, deserve our thanks, encouragement and proper training. Increased money for training is included in the package that the Government will be working on, and it will be a vital part of that.

Two weeks ago, the Minister kindly came to Hull to talk to parents who are campaigning to get an in-patient facility for children and young people in the Hull area, as the previous one was closed several years ago. Will he update my constituents about any progress in the past two weeks and about whether any of the £1 billion allocated to mental health services will be used in Hull?

I thank the hon. Lady for her question. It was good to see her in Hull with her constituents and those of the right hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle (Alan Johnson). I do not think that any new money is specifically needed to deliver on the commitment to provide in-patient care for young people in Hull and the surrounding area. It seemed to me that people had already agreed on that; the problem was in the delivery of it. She will recall the frustration that I expressed when I was sitting round a table with representatives from the clinical commissioning group, the NHS and the trust, because for some reason it was impossible for us to reach a decision.

The update is that I have already taken that matter away with me to consider how to resolve it, because I had some concern about it. A national decision has to be made about the allocation of finance and priorities, but there is a clear local need that needs to be addressed. We will make progress on that. On beds generally, we have more beds for young people than ever before, and 50 more since I came into my role, but they are not always in the right places, as we saw in the hon. Lady’s constituency. I do not think that anything in the announcement affects the importance of that matter, which has already been recognised.

I warmly welcome the Government’s initiative and the taskforce report. I am slightly disappointed by the Opposition’s rather churlish tone, as I thought this was a cross-party matter.

May I make two brief pleas to the Minister? First, we must not lose sight of acute mental health episodes among children and young people at weekends and out of hours, which is a long-standing issue, including in my constituency. Secondly, Tourette’s syndrome falls between the strategies and provision of education and health. One in 100 children are diagnosed with Tourette’s. It is an important neurological condition that we need to address. Will the Minister keep focused on that as part of his wider mental health review?

Absolutely. Attention is now being paid to crisis care in A&E, which recognises the fact that people who need urgent treatment will go to A&E. The Government are determined to ensure that there is emergency access 24/7 by placing more psychiatric liaison teams in hospitals and by improving crisis care in the community. My hon. Friend is right to recognise the problem. A number of syndromes and issues have particular qualities associated with them that need individual care, and he is right to raise his concerns about those who suffer from Tourette’s.

The taskforce emphasises the importance of supported housing for people with mental health problems. I think it is right to say that the Minister’s Department made no representations to the Treasury before the changes to housing benefit for tenants in supported housing were announced. It had made no official representations to other Departments as recently as three weeks ago. Will the Minister now make the case to his colleagues in the Departments for Communities and Local Government and for Work and Pensions on the need to exempt vulnerable people from the changes in housing benefit?

I understand the right hon. Lady’s point. I know that such issues are being considered extremely carefully by those who are responsible for developing the policy, but I will ensure that her further concerns are noted and that the Departments recognise them.

There is so much good stuff in this report that I must congratulate the authors on their work and my right hon. Friend the Minister on his interest. I particularly welcome the recognition in the report of the gap in the provision of psychiatric liaison services, and the commitment to have such services at the core 24/7 level in at least half of all hospitals by 2020. Will my right hon. Friend advise me on whether such provision is fully funded? Given the difficulties of getting such services in place at the moment, will he take a close interest in the plan to make it happen in practice?

I thank my hon. Friend for her interest in this subject, which she had expressed to me previously, and her work on it. Yes, our determination is that the extra £1 billion a year that will be spent on mental health services will cover the training and the commitment that we have made to 24/7 cover. It is very important that such cover is there. The issue was identified when the Care Quality Commission looked at the work of the mental health crisis care concordat, which has been so successful in its first 12 or 18 months. I can assure her that I am determined to ensure that we provide these facilities.

The report adds to the consensus that arose from Lord Crisp’s commission and the cross-party work led by my right hon. Friend the Member for North Norfolk (Norman Lamb) on ending the practice of out-of-area treatments. Will the Minister commit to putting a timetable on that process so that we might know when it will happen?

The taskforce recommendation is that out-of-area placements should be eliminated by 2020; Lord Crisp’s report said 2017. I would like to see it done as soon as is reasonably practicable. We want to ensure that, where possible, people can be treated locally, as it makes a real difference. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson) mentioned one or two cases of young people being treated some way away, and the impact that it has had on them. They lose local community links and the community work that can be done to assist them. We all want to see that ended, and I want it to be done as soon as possible. It will certainly be done within the taskforce’s recommended timescale. If it can be done any quicker locally, area by area, I will be very happy.

I welcome the Government’s positive response to the taskforce report. Although effective acute care is vital, prevention is better than cure. Will the Government look at ongoing training for all GPs in mental health so that all patients can have access to early diagnosis, care and treatment, to prevent problems from escalating?

My hon. Friend makes a good point. GPs are often contacted first when a problem is developing, as I know from my contacts with the British Medical Association and with the Royal College of General Practitioners, which was also very interested in the taskforce report. Those organisations want to ensure that doctors have enough training, because training levels tend to vary according to interest. I know that all GPs are concerned about the matter and want to ensure that they have the skills. Equally, they need to know that they can then refer to the right place. That is what the increased support for both emergency and community services is all about. It is to ensure that there are proper pathways so that people do not get stuck at any particular stage.

My 15-year-old constituent Matthew Garnett, who has autism, has spent the past six months in a psychiatric intensive care unit 30 miles from home. The unit does not have the specialism to meet Matthew’s needs and he has deteriorated significantly. The specialist bed that Matthew needs is in Northampton, where Matthew’s family have been told there are five young people who are ready for discharge but whose ongoing care cannot be arranged. Clearly, there is a crisis in mental healthcare for children and adolescents. When will the Minister bring a plan to the House to address that, and will he intervene to secure the bed that Matthew Garnett so desperately needs?

I thank the hon. Lady for her question. If she wants to make a particular approach on that case, I am ready to listen.

It is already in the works. Okay, thank you. Let me say a couple of things with regard to specialist care. First, even though we want most young people to have access to care close to home, there will always be some specialist care that will require out-of-area treatment—perhaps those are the circumstances to which the hon. Lady is referring. It is then a question of getting the place.

That issue emphasises why it is so important to have the community care available. We need to be able to discharge patients and put in place a proper care package. That is precisely what the taskforce considered and made recommendations on. That work is already ongoing. As my time in office has shown me, there are variations in practice in different places. Discharges are handled better in some areas than in others. The practice of the best must become the practice for all. Everything must be done to ensure that people are treated in the appropriate place at the appropriate time, and keeping people in hospital unnecessarily is not what anyone wants. That work is already going on, and I will make sure that the hon. Lady gets an answer to her particular question.

I welcome the Minister’s personal commitment to this issue and the Government’s investment in this area, which demonstrates the importance of mental health issues alongside physical health in the NHS. Will the Minister clarify how he will hold the NHS to account so that the money is spent on additional mental health services as opposed to just being frittered away?

The engagement of the NHS with the taskforce needs to be recognised and emphasised. The NHS set up the taskforce because it wanted to be clear about the state of mental health services and take a five-year forward view. That is what the taskforce does, but it goes beyond that to say that it has a 10-year vision, which I welcome. Not everything can be done in neat, parliamentary-cycle chunks, so it is important that people have a continuing sense of commitment. The certainty that my hon. Friend wants is demonstrated by the involvement of the NHS, the endorsement of the recommendation by the chief executive, and the work on transparency, which is important to us, to make sure that we can all see where money has been spent. That should hold clinical commissioning groups and the NHS to account on the expenditure issue.

Paul Farmer’s report highlights the fact that 50% of diagnoses of mental health challenges are made by the age of 14, and 75% are made by the age of 24. He also says in the report:

“Yet most children and young people get no support.”

Will the Minister explain what specific work will be undertaken to look at prevention and early intervention, including early diagnosis?

I thank the hon. Lady for her interest and her considerable knowledge of these issues, which she has raised a number of times.

There are two things to say. First, on expenditure on children and young people’s mental health services, £1.25 billion will be spent over the next five years to improve the baseline for child and adolescent mental health services, including early prevention. I would also mention the full roll-out of IAPT—improving access to psychological therapies—services for children by 2018. That is already in place for, I think, 70% of the country, and it will be completed by 2018. It is a way of ensuring that children have early access to the psychological therapies that they need. That is an important development, which I hope the hon. Lady welcomes.

As chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on mental health, I very much welcome the report, as Members in all parts of the House should. There is a high-quality public debate about mental health, in which we are addressing stigma, and the Prime Minister has made two speeches in the past three weeks about mental health, setting out the Government’s priorities. Does the Minister agree that there is a unique opportunity for him and the Government to drive forward real, quality change in mental health?

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for the work that he has done as chair of the all-party group, and indeed to all colleagues in the House who have raised these issues over a period of time and, partly as a result of their personal experiences and their bravery in talking about them, have helped in the process in which we are engaged.

Yes, we have a great opportunity. The taskforce has set out a 10-year vision, and there is a commitment from the NHS. At the top level, in all parts of the House, there is a commitment to the issue, and I hope that we will have an opportunity to develop the services that people want and for which, in all honesty, they have waited too long.

I welcome the taskforce report and the Government’s response. The Minister indicated that £1 billion would be made available by 2021. What is the relationship between that and the devolved institutions in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and are there any Barnett consequentials?

Although I read the answers to my own questions, I cannot recall one on that point, so the hon. Gentleman has caught me out. I genuinely do not know the answer, so I will write to him about the devolved Administrations or place an answer in the Library. I think we are talking about responsibility in England, because this is a devolved matter, but there is good, close co-operation between officials on the development of mental health services in the devolved Administrations, which will certainly continue. I will make sure that an answer on the finances is placed in the Library.

The work that the Minister has outlined is, to my mind, one of the most important pieces of work in this Parliament, and I very much welcome the investment and improved services that have resulted.

May I build on the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Halesowen and Rowley Regis (James Morris) and the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Dr Whitford) about the stigma of mental health? Depression is one of the most terrible diseases that people can suffer, and they often suffer because of the stigma attached to it, too. I congratulate the writers of “Coronation Street” on the Steve McDonald storyline, which was dealt with sensitively and addressed some of the stigmas and stereotypes. I urge my right hon. Friend the Minister to ensure that as much effort is put into tackling the stigma of mental health as into the practical investment in services.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I praise the storyline editors of “Coronation Street” just as much as I do those of “EastEnders”, which has done a remarkable job in relation to perinatal mental health with Stacey’s story over the past few weeks.

The Government’s anti-stigma campaign will certainly continue. We are much informed particularly by young people, with whom we have worked on Time to Change, to which we have made a further commitment of financial support. Stigma is a terrible thing, and is partly responsible for breaking the link between physical and mental health. The taskforce recommended that the Government deliver on the objective to make sure that more people with mental health problems receive help for their physical issues, so that we can deal with the terrible difference in mortality rates between those with mental health difficulties and other people. Dealing with the stigma, so that people feel able to raise their problems, is an important part of that.

I thank the Minister for his statement, and I acknowledge the work of the taskforce and its report.

I encourage the Minister, along with his colleagues in the Department for Education, to take a particular interest in the mental health in schools training programme, which has been developed by practitioners to ensure that schools are better equipped to support the mental health and wellbeing of pupils. Will they help to safeguard those interests in a system that is designed to be run in a similar way to the child protection system, with which schools are familiar?

The hon. Gentleman has a long-standing interest in these issues. He is absolutely right: in England, a pilot project with 27 schools is being run by the Department for Education to locate and identify a single point of contact in those schools on mental health issues for young people. Depending on the results, more projects can be rolled out. Early identification and support in school are absolutely essential, and that work is under way.

There are a number of different initiatives, sometimes inspired by people who have experienced personal tragedy in their own family. They realise that the tragedy that has befallen their young person might not have happened if their friends had been more aware of their circumstances, or if the school or college had been more aware. We look at all those different initiatives to see how best practice can be spread, but the hon. Gentleman is right to raise the issue.

I congratulate the Minister and the Government on their commitment on this. He has just spoken about best practice. Last month in Stafford we held a round table on mental health. One of the issues that came up was that there were a lot of good local initiatives, both in the public and the non-governmental organisation sector, but sometimes they did not know about each other. Will he point us to best practice in the sector?

I am happy to do so, and I welcome my hon. Friend’s question. As I indicated earlier, something that has perplexed me since I have been in this role is the variation in practice in different places. It has never been easier to transfer information by electronic means and make people aware of best practice, but it is still difficult to move things around. We need to make sure that there is a website—a clearing house—for ideas in such areas.

Absolutely. We need to make sure that we have proper ways to access all the different ideas. A lot of work has gone into this, and we need to make sure that it is easy to access different ideas. There is a lot going on, and a lot can be done in relation to spreading best practice.

I gently remind the House that exchanges in the Chamber are not a private conversation. It is quite important, from the vantage point of those who take a full and complete record of our proceedings, that they can hear what is said.

The Minister welcomed the work of the taskforce and its comprehensive report. I agree entirely. He said that he would seek to implement the measures in a rolling programme, but can we infer from that that he is committed to implementing all the measures and that he fully accepts all the recommendations?

Yes, we have indicated that we accept all the recommendations by the taskforce. I would like to roll out responses to them over a period of time so that they are regularly brought back to the House. Our commitment to expenditure, training and dealing with the recommendations is clear.

Mr Speaker, you would not want to hear all the private conversations that go on on the Floor of the House, nor would those who report our proceedings, but I see the hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Luciana Berger) so often at events such as this that it is not unnatural that we have the odd exchange over the Dispatch Box.

I declare an interest as a registered clinical psychologist. I thank the Minister for his commitment and the taskforce for its informative report. In considering mental health across the lifespan, the report highlights the fact that 40% of people living in care homes are affected by depression, which contributes to morbidity. Alongside medical and social care, will the Minister commit to funding specialists in older adult psychological treatment, to address the growing mental health needs of our population?

I thank the hon. Lady for her work in this area, for her commitment to this area since she has been in the House, and for being at the National Autistic Society event last night, where she again demonstrated that interest. May I look at the suggestion that she makes? It is well recognised that with the growing incidence of dementia and other issues, and with those in care homes being increasingly frail, there will of course be a need for further specialised work. May I look at that area in particular and come back to her in due course?