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World Innovation Summit for Health

Volume 750: debated on Monday 16 December 2013


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their response to the recommendation for improving mental health globally made at the World Innovation Summit for Health.

My Lords, we welcome the recommendations made at the World Innovation Summit for Health and outlined in its report, Transforming Lives and Enhancing Communities. Mental health and well-being is a priority for this Government. Our overarching goal is to ensure that mental health has equal priority with physical health, and that everyone who needs it has timely access to the best available treatment. We hope that other countries will afford it equal priority.

My Lords, I thank the noble Earl for his reply. I should have made it clear when I tabled the Question that I was really looking for a reply from the Department for International Development. I will, however, ask two questions.

I know that the Minister will be as appalled as everyone else by this report and its finding that 700 million people with mental health problems worldwide are not getting treated, as a result of which some find themselves chained up or caged. Does he think the report’s findings and recommendations are relevant in the UK as well as elsewhere, although, obviously, not in relation to being chained up or caged? DfID currently spends, essentially, nothing on mental health. What is it planning to do post-2015 to make sure that nobody is left behind, as the Prime Minister has set out in his report?

My Lords, the principles espoused at WISH do indeed apply with equal force to mental health services in this country. Those principles are several, but I would draw the noble Lord’s attention to the need to draw on evidence-based practice; to strive for universal mental health coverage; to respect human rights and to take a life-course approach. We try to embody all those things in our mental health services. Regarding DfID, I can tell the noble Lord that there are a number of multilateral and bilateral programmes which are in train and supported by the Government. We are supporting work in the Caribbean and Bermuda and promoting work in a number of countries in sub-Saharan Africa. I would be happy to write to the noble Lord with a complete list of these.

My Lords, in broad terms, dementia falls outside the scope of mental health but it is, of course, closely allied. Many of the principles that apply to good mental health care apply equally to dementia. We are, again, doing our best, in responding to the Prime Minister’s challenge on dementia, to ensure that those who contract this dreadful condition are looked after with dignity and respect in the appropriate setting.

My Lords, the WISH report, to which the Government are signed up, recommends key improvements to community care for mental health by 2020. Yet the recent FoI survey of 51 NHS mental health trusts by BBC News and Community Care magazine shows overall budgets shrinking by over 2%, including those for community mental health support teams, despite referrals to them rising by 13%. How is this consistent with pledging to achieve the WISH goal by 2020? What leadership and direction will the Government give to preventing this very disturbing situation from getting worse?

My Lords, we need to hold the NHS to account by reference to the outcomes that it achieves. I do not belittle the need to spend sufficient sums of money. The National Survey of Investment in Adult Mental Health Services has indicated that reported spend on mental health services has continued to hold reasonably steady over time. I reiterate that mental health and well-being is a priority for the Government, as I hope the noble Baroness knows. We have clear indicators in the NHS outcomes framework, which will ensure that NHS England will need to focus on this area very closely.

My Lords, it is extremely welcome that my noble friend has emphasised again that for the Government, under the Health and Social Care Act, parity of esteem between physical and mental health is to be maintained in this country. Perhaps I might press my noble friend a little further than the noble Lord, Lord Crisp, did. Have there been discussions between the Department of Health and DfID about DfID espousing parity of esteem for physical and mental health in its proposals, and have there been discussions with other government departments, such as the FCO, about the increasing abuse of mental health and psychiatry facilities for political prisoners in various parts of the world, not least in some of those countries with which we have good relations, including Russia?

I will write to my noble friend on the issue of political prisoners. On his main point of principle about parity of esteem, that principle—which essentially works to ensure that mental health has equal priority with physical health—is central to government-funded mental health programmes overseas; in particular, DfID funds programmes that promote the rights of people with mental health disorders to ensure that their needs are equally met. We recently invested £2 million for an additional three years’ support to the Disability Rights Fund, which makes disability, including mental health issues, a key international development priority.

My Lords, people with learning disabilities are disproportionately affected by mental health problems, with three times as many people experiencing such issues. In this country we are very well aware of that, and despite our own problems, such as Winterbourne View, we actually lead the world in research and service development. This is not recognised in global initiatives such as the summit just referred to by my noble friend. What will the Government do to try to raise awareness of the mental health needs of this particularly vulnerable group of people?

Often overseas we are working with very scant resources and the key is to build up the skills at primary care level in countries that are developing and may not have regarded those with learning disabilities as a priority for healthcare. It is a slow process but one that we are trying our best to support. Again, I would be happy to write to the noble Baroness with details.