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Mental Health Provision

Volume 654: debated on Tuesday 19 February 2019

Under the NHS long-term plan, there will be a comprehensive expansion of mental health services, with at least an additional £2.3 billion in real terms by 2023-24. That builds on our ambitious targets for improving community and crisis care, with extra treatment for 370,000 adults per year, and for 345,000 children and young people by 2023.

Yes, but I think that the Minister is seeking to group this question with that of the hon. Member for Ochil and South Perthshire (Luke Graham). Am I right?

One of my constituents, Mark Verrion, is a patient of Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust. He was first admitted on a temporary basis following an unfortunate but mild episode. He has now been institutionalised for 11 years, and he has been moved over 100 times during that period, often out of area. The trust has 289 out-of-area placements for adult mental health services, which is an increase of 100 over the past year, and the cost to local health budgets is obvious. Does my hon. Friend agree that my constituent and all the other out-of-area patients deserve local health provision to enable them to remain within the trust area?

I quite agree with my hon. Friend. Frankly, I am horrified to hear the account he has just given. We have made a priority of getting rid of out-of-area placements, because we know that patients do better when they are among family and friends. Clearly the case he has just outlined, which has lasted the past 11 years, is totally unacceptable. I will give it my personal attention and meet him to discuss it.

6. What UK-wide steps is my hon. Friend taking to ensure that Scotland is not left behind in mental health provision, especially given that only two thirds of young people are referred within the 18-week timeline, against a 90% target? (909306)

As my hon. Friend knows, health is a devolved matter, but I am keen to share best practice with colleagues in Scotland, who face many similar challenges. In England, we will test four-week waiting times for access to NHS support in the community and we are committed to sharing that expertise, as we often do, with colleagues in Scotland.

In the Government’s 10-year plan for the NHS, a growing share of the budget is promised for improving mental health services in the coming years. The mental health services in Wolverhampton are in a desperate state of underfunding now. I am receiving letters from my constituents telling me how they have to wait over a year or more to be treated. One woman told me:

“I personally know people who have attempted to take their own lives, thankfully unsuccessfully… but… aftercare once discharged from hospital”

is non-existent. When will people see the benefits of the 10-year plan? By the time the uplift takes place, it will be too late for some of them.

As we outlined in the 10-year plan, we fully recognise that there needs to be much more investment in community and crisis care, including direct access via the 111 service. By April, we will be able to put more flesh on the detail of how we will roll that out. I assure the hon. Lady that I am in no way complacent about the challenges we face in ensuring that our mental health services are what people should expect of them.

Last week, The Guardian revealed that hospital admissions for eating disorders have surged in the last year. Meanwhile, the number of children and young people with urgent cases of eating disorders who are treated within a week has fallen, and the number of those waiting between one and four weeks has risen. If prevention is better than cure, why do so many children and adolescents with eating disorders end up in A&E?

The hon. Lady is right in the sense that we have waiting targets for eating disorders, whereby the most acute cases should be seen within a week. We have seen very good progress—indeed, in most areas those targets are met. I will look into the cases that she has highlighted because we need to give attention to where the targets start to be missed. However, I assure her that we recognise that tackling eating disorders among our youngest people through early intervention must be done because prevention is always better than cure.

On Friday, I joined the brilliant A&E team at the James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough for a night, and it was an insight into just how lucky we are to have our NHS staff—they are fantastic. On the subject of mental health, one of the key themes that recurred in the night was the problem of drug addiction and its impact on A&E pressures. What action will the Minister take in the long-term NHS plan to ensure that we can tackle addiction?

We are aware that substance misuse and addiction have a massive impact on mental health. Again, I point to the fact that we have objectives in the long-term plan, including joining up more effectively with local authorities’ work on mental health. Tackling addiction and substance abuse is very much a priority.

The Minister will be aware of the high prevalence of mental health issues among ex-service personnel, particularly people who served in Northern Ireland and the middle east. What provision is she making for those who suffer unduly on the mental health front?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising the matter. Through the military covenant, we have an absolute duty to provide the best possible care to those who have made that commitment to service on our behalf. Through NHS England’s commissioning of specialised services, we are determined to ensure that we have the right provision for all our veterans and servicemen. I am in contact with the Ministry of Defence to ensure that we do all we can for them.