Skip to main content

Mental Health Treatment

Volume 623: debated on Tuesday 21 March 2017

5. What steps his Department is taking to reduce the number of mental health patients having to travel out of their local area for treatment. (909358)

This Government were the first to set a national ambition to eliminate inappropriate out-of-area placements by 2020-21. By then, no adult, child or young person will be sent away from their local area to be treated for a general mental health condition.

I thank the Secretary of State for his response. My 17-year-old constituent Jess needed an acute mental health bed. The nearest available was in Colchester. She was allowed to go home some weekends, but it meant an 800-mile trip for her mum. We can only imagine the emotional and financial hardship that that caused. The Secretary of State tells us that he is working on this matter, and I believe that he does want to improve things, but what progress has actually been made, as this is really, really not good enough for Jess and others?

I agree with the hon. Lady and she makes her case very powerfully. We need to make progress and we need to make it fast, particularly for young people, as their recovery can be very closely linked with the potential of their parents to come to visit them. Nearby places such as the Sheffield Health and Social Care Foundation Trust, which do not serve her constituents, have eliminated out-of-area placements and saved £2 million in the process. It is about spreading that best practice.

16. Schools are often the first point of contact for young people with mental health problems. Does the Secretary of State share my view that we must ensure that school-age children have access to mental health services wherever they are? (909369)

My hon. Friend speaks very wisely on this matter. In the end, schools are a vital place in which to spot mental health conditions early. We know that around half of mental health conditions become established before the age of 14, and this will be a big part of the Green Paper that we publish later this year.

Does the Secretary of State recognise the ways in which poverty, the associated financial strain and deprivation intersect with mental health; understand the need for him to work with the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to ensure that mental health is properly recognised in personal independence payment assessments; and recognise that the problem is more acutely affected if people have to travel out of their area of residence?

I can reassure the hon. Lady that I have had a number of discussions with the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. Indeed, we are producing a joint Green Paper on health and work precisely to make sure that we address those issues.

Some innovative and award-winning work is being done by Bradford District NHS Care Trust. It is working alongside excellent voluntary organisations and charitable organisations such as the Cellar Trust in Shipley, which is delivering much improved support for mental health patients. Will the Secretary of State congratulate the work that is being done in Bradford, and would he like to pay a visit so that he can share this best practice with other parts of the UK?

I am happy to congratulate the Cellar Trust, and to pay a visit if I can find the time to do so. My hon. Friend is right to say that voluntary organisations play a vital role. Very often, they can see the whole picture and they treat the whole person, not just the specific NHS or specific housing issue, so he is right to commend its work.

Recent figures show that 18 mental health patients were placed more than 185 miles away from their home for treatment, including five from the northern region—Jess is one such example. Their families will have to travel the equivalent of Manchester to London, or further, to visit them. We have also learned that £800 million was taken out of CCG budgets, which could be funding services such as mental health in-patient beds, just to help NHS England balance the books. Will the Secretary of State tell those patients and families why they should be treated so far from home when their local CCG should be able to fund the in-patient beds they need?

With great respect to the hon. Lady, we are the first Government to count out-of-area placements, and to commit to eradicating them. What she does not tell the House is the context, which is the biggest expansion in mental health provision anywhere in Europe, with 1,400 more people being treated every single day, and an extra £342 million being spent this year on mental health compared with last year.