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House of Commons Hansard
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Mental Health Workforce
19 December 2017
Volume 633
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8. What steps he is taking to increase the size of the mental health workforce. [903020]

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In order to increase the number of mental health patients we treat by 1 million every year by 2020-21, we are increasing the number of mental health posts in the NHS by 21,000.

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I certainly welcome that increase, but does my right hon. Friend agree that there is a particular need to address mental health issues in schools? Could he set out what plans he has to give extra support there?

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My hon. Friend is absolutely right, for the simple reason that prevention is better than cure, and about half of all mental health conditions become established before the age of 14. That is why it was so significant that, following the Budget, we announced the allocation of an extra £300 million through the mental health Green Paper, precisely to improve the service we offer students in schools.

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The Secretary of State has, on numerous occasions, to both the media and this House, referred to an increase of 4,300 staff working in mental health trusts since 2010. In response to my written parliamentary question, he was unable to clarify whether this 4,300 figure includes the 1,478 people who were rebadged as mental health trust staff following a trust merger in Manchester last year. Nor would he confirm whether this figure includes the 858 people NHS Digital says were already working in the sector, who transferred from primary care trusts to mental health trusts when primary care trusts closed back in 2013. Would the Secretary of State offer the House some festive cheer and take this opportunity to set the record straight?

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I am very happy to offer the hon. Lady festive cheer and to explain to her that, even if her suspicion is right—and I do not believe it is—there has still been a significant increase in the number of staff employed in mental health trusts. The other suspicion she has constantly raised in the media and in this House is that mental health funding is being cut. She will know that the best news of this year is that, last year, funding actually went up by £575 million.

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Given that the NHS owns a great deal of land and buildings, and that mental health workers and other health workers face high accommodation costs, will the Secretary of State meet me so that I can explain how the benefits of the Self-build and Custom Housebuilding Act 2015 could be used as a powerful retention and recruitment tool for mental health workers?

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I commend my hon. Friend for his work and thinking on this through the Public Accounts Committee, and he is absolutely right. I am more than happy to talk to him about this, but we actually have it as a priority to make sure that when NHS land is disposed of, NHS workers get the first opportunity to buy or rent the houses that are built.

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There are still not enough staff trained in autism diagnosis across the NHS. Would the Secretary of State consider training a specialist in each community, adolescent and child mental health service right across the country to ensure that there is no longer a postcode lottery?

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I would always listen to the hon. Lady on those matters, because she has huge professional experience. I do not think we do well enough for families with autism, and we are looking at what we can do better, but I have a lot of sympathy for the case the hon. Lady is making.