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Global Mental Health Summit

Volume 648: debated on Tuesday 23 October 2018

This month, we hosted the world’s first ever global ministerial mental health summit. Over 60 countries were represented, and they were united in the ambition to achieve equality for mental and physical health. The legacy of the summit will continue, with the baton now passed to the Netherlands, which has committed to host next year.

At the summit, I hope that the Government were applauded for appointing a Minister for suicide prevention. Will my right hon. Friend reflect on the fact that many people contemplating taking their life end up in A&E or in police stations, and will he look at James’ Place in Liverpool? That non-clinical centre catches young men in particular, who are very often the victims of this problem, and deals with their mental health issues.

Part of the purpose of having a cross-Government suicide prevention Minister is to bring together all these issues. I pay tribute to the work of James’ Place and its founder, Clare Milford Haven. We are spending £30 million of taxpayers’ money to increase the number of health-based places of safety for people experiencing a crisis, and I look forward to working with my hon. Friend on that.

No, the question has been grouped. The moment is now; the chance is here—let us hear from the hon. Gentleman.

Thank you very much.

It strikes me that every person in this Chamber, every one of our constituents and every household across the country will have been affected by the issue of suicide, whether among family, friends or colleagues. The causes of suicide are multi-faceted—there are so many, including mental health—so I welcome the new ministerial responsibility. Will my right hon. Friend clarify precisely what the role will entail in government?

I very much agree with my hon. Friend. The role will be cross-governmental. It will involve working not only across national Government, convening the policies that need to be pulled together from various Departments’ responses to support people in crisis and to reduce suicide, but with local government, which has responsibilities here.

Suicide prevention plans have to be a key element of any mental health strategy, yet the Government are not monitoring the effectiveness of those plans or ensuring that they are fully funded. Will the Secretary of State commit to ensuring that the plans that are put in place are effective and that local authorities have sufficient funds to implement them properly?

The hon. Lady is right to draw attention to the need to ensure that funding for mental health services has parity with that for physical health services. Getting there is the work of a generation. We did not even measure access to mental health services until this Government brought that in, and we are working towards parity.

The Secretary of State boasted to the global ministerial mental health summit about the Government’s plans to recruit 21,000 more staff to the mental health workforce by 2021, but he did not tell the summit that by the end of May this year, nearly 25,000 mental health staff—one in eight of the workforce—had left the NHS and that fewer than 1,000 extra staff had been recruited by March, equating to just 0.5% of his target. Does he really think that he is in a position to lecture the rest of the world?

I welcome the hon. Lady’s commitment to this area. Clearly it is very important to have the workforce in place. As she said, we are making progress, but we still have more to do. As far as the international approach is concerned, the response to the summit was that many countries came together, because collectively we all face the same sorts of challenges. I am in absolutely no doubt that the leadership shown by some countries, including the UK, is warmly welcomed.

The links between poor mental health, suicide and gambling addiction have been made clear to the Health and Social Care Committee. In that regard, will the Secretary of State make it clear to the Treasury that many across the House want to make sure that action on fixed odds betting terminals is taken forward so that we can have good results in the areas of mental health and suicide prevention?

My hon. Friend knows my personal strength of feeling about tackling the scourge of fixed odds betting terminals. The links between gambling addiction and mental health issues—and indeed, directly to suicide—are clear in the evidence, and we must address them.

My constituent David contacted me after his 18-year-old son became severely mentally unwell and needed emergency treatment. His son spent four days in A&E at the local hospital because no in-patient beds were available. This is not a one-off case: on a daily basis, mentally unwell people are being failed by our health service. When will the Secretary of State take meaningful action to fund mental health services properly and stop this scandal?

I am glad that, like me, the hon. Lady cares so much about getting this right. The long-term plan, which we are writing with the NHS, for how we will spend the £20 billion funding increase is where we can get these details right. Access to mental health services was not even measured before. The first step was to put the measurement in place, and now we can act on that measurement with the huge increase in funding coming to the NHS.