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Mental Health Services

Volume 652: debated on Tuesday 15 January 2019

11. What steps he is taking to ensure the adequacy of mental health service provision in the long term. (908566)

16. What steps he is taking to ensure the adequacy of mental health service provision in the long term. (908571)

Under the NHS long-term plan, there will be a comprehensive expansion of mental health services with an additional £2.3 billion in real terms by 2023-24. This will give 380,000 more adults access to psychological therapies and 345,000 more children and young people greater support in the next five years. The NHS will also roll out new waiting times to ensure rapid access to mental health services in the community and through the expansion of crisis care.

I thank my hon. Friend for her answer. She will be aware of the long-running and substantial problems that we have had in our main mental health trust, the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust. Will she update the House on the latest position there, and in particular, will she tell us what steps the Government are taking to finally turn around this failing trust?

My hon. Friend is quite right: I have stood at this Dispatch Box a number of times to address concerns from all the local MPs in Norfolk and Suffolk. I can advise him and the House that the trust is receiving increased oversight and enhanced support from NHS Improvement. It is in special measures for quality reasons. It is also receiving peer support from the East London NHS Foundation Trust, which is an excellent and outstanding trust. We will continue to take a close interest in developments, but I can assure him that the trust is receiving every possible attention to improve its performance.

Will the Minister also set out what steps will be taken to ensure that care for someone experiencing a mental health crisis is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his question, because this was top of my list of asks as we were developing the forward plan. The NHS has reiterated its commitment to ensure that a 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week community-based mental health crisis response for all adults is in place across England by 2020-21. All adults experiencing a mental health crisis will be able to be directed to support via NHS 111. This is based on best practice as shown by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his interest in this, and I can assure him that NHS England, all the commissioners and I are very much on it.

Half of all women who experience depression or anxiety in the perinatal period say that their problem was not asked about by health services. There are some genuinely positive things to say about the NHS long-term plan’s proposals for specialist services, but what is the point in having services if half the people with a problem do not have it diagnosed? What are we going to do about that?

The hon. Gentleman has quizzed me about this a number of times, and I know that he cares very deeply about it. One of the specific issues he has raised with me is the awareness of GPs and their involvement in diagnosing these problems. Obviously we are taking that forward as part of the GP contract. I can also advise him that there is a significant expansion in perinatal services. We are confident of achieving the national trajectory of 2,000 more women accessing specialist care this year, and more than 7,000 additional women accessed such care as of March 2018.

Recent analysis of NHS digital mental health workforce statistics reveals that NHS England is not on course to meet its targets of 21,000 additional mental health staff by 2021. This means that it is unlikely to meet the goals set in the five year forward view and the recent long-term plan. Mental health services are in real danger of further decline, so may we have an absolute guarantee from the Secretary of State that these targets will be met, and if they are not, will he resign?

I have to advise the hon. Lady that we are on course to meet the targets in the five year forward view, but she is right to raise concerns about the workforce. Frankly, that keeps me awake at night. We are investing in a significant expansion of mental health services and that requires appropriate staff to deliver them. I can assure her, however, that we are in productive discussions with clinical leads in NHS England. We need to be much more imaginative about how we deliver services, and we are seeing substantial gains and improvements in performance through the increased use of peer support workers, who provide the therapeutic care from which many can benefit. However, the hon. Lady is right to hold me to account.