I thought that I would look at the manifestos of the main parties to see where they place mental health within their manifestos and what they say about them. I will review them in the order that the results are likely to be here in Kendal. So let’s start with
9 key areas in their manifesto and Health and Social Care is third. Within this area there are a further 6 key areas and mental health appears third – under the headline Equal care for mental health. Their pledges are then:
- Ringfence funding from within the one penny Income Tax rise, to provide additional investment in mental health
- Continue to roll out access and waiting time standards for children, young people and adults. This will include a guarantee that people will not wait more than six weeks for therapy for depression or anxiety, and no young person will wait more than two weeks for treatment when they experience a first episode of psychosis.
- Increase access to clinically- and cost-effective talking therapies so that hundreds of thousands more people can receive this support.
- Examine the case for introducing a dedicated service for children and young people based on the Australian ‘headspace’ model and building on many excellent Youth Information, Advice and Counselling Services.
- Transform mental health support for pregnant women, new mothers and those who have experienced miscarriage or stillbirth, and help them get early care when needed.
- Continue to promote and invest in the Frontline programme to fast-track exceptional graduates into children’s social work, as well as the Think Ahead scheme aimed at encouraging high-achieving graduates to pursue a career in mental health social work.
- Ensure that no one in crisis is turned away, with new waiting time standards and better crisis care in Accident and Emergency, in the community and via phone lines. This will enable us to end the use of police cells for people facing a mental health crisis.
- End out of area placements, ensuring those admitted to hospital for mental ill-health are able to be treated close to home.
- Ensure that all frontline public service professionals, including in schools and universities, receive better training in mental health.
- Roll out the Liaison and Diversion programme nationally, helping to identify people who have mental health problems, learning disabilities, substance misuse or other vulnerabilities when they first come into contact with the criminal justice system
- Tackle stigma against mental ill-health, including by building on the good work done by organisations like Heads Together and changing the standard of proof in suicide conclusions in the Coroner’s Court.
- Ensure that LGBT+ inclusive mental health services receive funding and support.
Only available as an Issuu or pdf download so not the friendliest format – contains five key challenges none of them mention physical or mental health. Finally on p56 of 84 you find mental health – in the section entitled The Worlds Great Meritocracy here’s what they have to say:
Unfortunately you can’t cut and paste from an Issuu document, so you will have to look yourself. You can use this link https://www.conservatives.com/manifesto and go to p56.
12 key areas on the home page – Health Care for All is either 4th or 7th depending on how you choose to count. Within Health Care for All there are 3 key elements of which mental health is last. But here is what they have to say
Mental ill-health is the biggest unaddressed health challenge of our age. Around one in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year.
Yet, since 2010 mental health funding has been cut, the number of mental health nurses has fallen by 6,600 and remaining mental health budgets have been raided to plug holes elsewhere in the NHS.
Labour will work to reverse the damage done to mental health services under this Tory government, which is particularly hitting services for LGBT and BAME communities.
In order to protect services, we will ring-fence mental health budgets and ensure funding reaches the frontline.
We will end the scandal of children being treated on adult mental health wards and stop people being sent across the country, away from their support networks, to secure the treatment they need by bringing forward the ending of out-of-area placements to 2019.
Labour will also bring an end to the neglect of children’s mental health. Half of people with mental health problems as adults present with symptoms by the age of 14. Yet, across England only 8 per cent of mental health funding goes to services for children and young people. In recent years, referrals to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services have increased by two-thirds, and the number of young people presenting to A&E units with psychiatric conditions has doubled. Suicide is now the most common cause of death for boys aged between five and 19.
Labour will invest in early intervention by increasing the proportion of mental health budgets spent on support for children and young people. We will ensure that access to a counselling service is available for all children in secondary schools.
Giving mental health the same priority as physical health means not only ensuring access to services, but also making improvements, to those services. Choice is important in a modern NHS, and patients who receive their therapy of choice have better outcomes. Labour will therefore ask the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) to evaluate the potential for increasing the range of evidence- based psychological therapies on offer.
So that was what the main parties have to say on mental health. Finally I will offer a few comments based on my own experiences –
We have seen nice words before but implementation has been at best poor – and that is across all parties.
Jeremy Corbyn in his first cabinet, had a shadow minister for mental health, which was great especially since the government did not even have a minister for mental health. But the post was dropped in his first shadow cabinet reshuffle.
The Conservatives state that they will change the Mental Health Act as it is too often used to detain rather than treat individuals – this misses the point and is putting the cart before the horse. The issue is that due to cuts by the coalition and the current government to front line mental health services the police are now acting as the first point of call for severe mental issues especially outside of the 9am – 5pm window. The only way the police can make an individual secure is to section them. Unfortunately mental health is not a 9 – 5 problem. It is recognised that the most common times for suicide and severe mental health trauma is actually 2am – 3am. To back up my assertion above the commissioning group for mental health services here in Cumbria are training the police in mental health awareness precisely because they are often now acting as the front line service.
The Conservatives also mention achieving parity of esteem for mental health. Looking at the dictionary definition of esteem the words that come closest are value and regard. I find it sad, shocking even, that in 2017 we are still striving to put mental health on the same regard/value as physical health. This shouldn’t be a 5 year goal it should be a basic human right! Presumably once mental health has parity of esteem only then can we move towards parity of expenditure on mental health.
Just to be even handed all parties state that they will increase spending none of them promise a parity of spending.
So ultimately how you vote is your decision but if you are interested in mental health then hopefully this will provide some insight as unfortunately mental health has hardly been mentioned in the campaign.