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Mental Health Workforce

Volume 629: debated on Tuesday 10 October 2017

Today is World Mental Health Day and the whole House will want to congratulate Time2Change on its 10th anniversary and the remarkable change in attitudes towards mental illness that it has helped to bring about. Our mental health workforce has increased by 30,000 since 2010 and another 21,000 posts are planned. [Official Report, 16 October 2017, Vol. 629, c. 4MC.]

On World Mental Health Day, I congratulate the Secretary of State on the work he has done, especially for children. We have had 42% more children receiving care for eating disorders and over 21,000 more children have received access to mental health provision. What targets does the Secretary of State have to help to improve such provision?

Our plans envisage treating another 70,000 children every year by 2020-21, but that is still not enough. It will take us from one in four children needing help to one in three. That is why we are publishing a Green Paper on child and adolescent mental health.

One of the staffing shortages is actually in children and young people’s services. In County Durham in my constituency, the waiting time for autism diagnosis is two years. I have raised this with the mental health trust and NHS England, but the problem seems to be with the clinical commissioning group. What can the Secretary of State do to ensure that the extra money that he has pledged to put into the service actually gets to the service?

I would like to thank the hon. Gentleman for speaking out about mental health, like so many colleagues in this House, which makes a massive difference to the Time2Change campaign. It is unacceptable for someone to be waiting that long, and I do not want to stand here and defend it. I will certainly look into the individual case that the hon. Gentleman raises, but the fact is that many Members will know of similar cases. The money is starting to get through to the frontline. It is not just money, though; it is also capacity, and having trained mental health therapists—nurses; psychiatrists—and that is why we are boosting their training, too.

As someone who is married to an NHS psychiatrist, may I start by paying tribute to all those volunteers, carers and professionals working in mental health on World Mental Health Day? Has the Secretary of State seen today’s briefing by the Children’s Commissioner, highlighting the vital importance of prevention and early intervention? Will he set out what steps he is taking to support a growing workforce—volunteers and professionals—working in prevention and early intervention?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I am aware of the report that she talks about. We know that half of mental health conditions become established before the age of 14, which is why early intervention is so important. In July, I announced an expansion in the mental health workforce—another 21,000 posts. A number of those will be in children’s mental health, to address the issues she raises.

The Secretary of State may know that because of a reduction in the number of mental health clinicians in Cumbria, the Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust has now chosen to end consultant psychiatric call-out care from 8 pm to 9 am. It would have started last week, but it is going to start in the next two or three weeks. That means, as I am sure he is aware, that it will not be possible to section people under the Mental Health Acts between those hours unless they are within an NHS facility. People in police stations, people in care homes and people at A&E departments will not be—

Order. If the hon. Gentleman wants to make an application for an Adjournment debate, he can do that on a subsequent occasion. I think we have got the gravamen of his question.

The question is: does the Secretary of State agree that that is not an appropriate use of resources, and will he provide the resources that are needed?

The hon. Gentleman raises a very serious issue. I will not go into it in detail now, but I will certainly look into it closely and get back to him, if I may. Obviously it is very important.

23. On World Mental Health Day, may I also welcome the progress the Government have made? We are doing all that we can to make changes. However, too many patients in my constituency, particularly younger patients, have to travel out of Eastleigh for the treatment they need, especially given the challenges facing Southern Health. Will the Secretary of State outline what he will be doing to right this wrong? (901029)

My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to the issues around Southern Health, which will have directly affected a number of her constituents. That organisation is being turned around. However, she is also right to say that too many people are travelling out of area for their treatment. We have record numbers of children’s beds commissioned, but in the end this is about the capacity of the system of trained psychiatrists, psychologists and therapists, which was why we announced the extra 21,000 posts.

On World Mental Health Day, may I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Washington and Sunderland West (Mrs Hodgson) for wearing yellow for #HelloYellow on behalf of our team?

The Secretary of State’s claim that thousands of extra mental health staff will be appointed by 2021 is fanciful unless he tells us how they will be funded. Today, the Care Quality Commission reports that mental health services are struggling to staff wards safely. We have also learned recently that two out of five mental health staff have been abused or attacked by patients in the past year. Most blame staff shortages for that violence. Rather than telling us about recruiting for 2021, what is the Secretary of State going to do today to protect staff from violence? [Official Report, 16 October 2017, Vol. 629, c. 4MC.]

Let me tell the hon. Lady what has happened in mental health. Some 30,000 more people are working in mental health today than when her Government left office—a 5.8% increase in clinical staff. On top of that —she asked about money—we have committed an extra £1 billion a year by 2021 so that we can employ even more people. We are the first Government to admit that where we are now is not good enough. We want to be the best in the world; that is why we are investing to deliver that.

21. Parental conflict is recognised as a key cause of children’s mental health problems. What is the Department doing to address that, and will Ministers be willing to meet a group of colleagues who supported the “Manifesto to Strengthen Families”? Its policy proposals seek to discuss how strengthening families can address children’s mental health problems. (901027)

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Children who come from troubled or chaotic family backgrounds are far more likely to have mental health issues. I am more than happy to meet her and to feed her thoughts into our mental health Green Paper.