Mental Health Services

Oral Answers to Questions — Health – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 24th March 2009.

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Photo of Lyn Brown Lyn Brown Labour, West Ham 2:30 pm, 24th March 2009

What recent assessment he has made of the adequacy of levels of mental health care provision; and if he will make a statement.

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Photo of Phil Hope Phil Hope Minister of State (Care Services; Minister for the East Midlands), Department of Health

The level of funding for mental health has never been higher. Since 2001, real-terms investment in adult mental health services has increased by 44 per cent., and the national health service spent £5.53 billion on adult mental health services in 2007. We have 64 per cent. more consultant psychiatrists, 71 per cent. more clinical psychologists and 21 per cent. more mental health nurses than we had in 1997, and are providing better care and support for people with mental illnesses.

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Photo of Lyn Brown Lyn Brown Labour, West Ham

I thank the Minister for that answer. I have consulted locally with constituents about the NHS in our area, and in general the feedback has been very good. I visited an excellent, fabulous facility for young people with acute mental health needs that is attached to my local hospital, but constituents have raised with me the issue of community support for young people with mental health needs. What progress is being made to provide community support for those young people in the area, and what I can tell my constituents on the issue?

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Photo of Phil Hope Phil Hope Minister of State (Care Services; Minister for the East Midlands), Department of Health

I had the pleasure of visiting my hon. Friend's constituency a few weeks ago. Newham was in fact a national demonstrator site for the development of new psychological therapies and a whole range of new services, and I was extremely impressed by what I saw. I congratulate her on the work that she does in her constituency to support the development of those services. In Newham, 16 staff are part of an early intervention team that helps young people between the ages of 14 and 35 with assessment and care. In particular, it tries to prevent those young people from being admitted to hospital at the first onset of psychosis or some other form of mental illness. Those new early intervention teams—a major investment—are matched by other teams that handle crisis resolution in homes, and outreach in the community. I hope that when she goes back to her constituents in Newham, she will congratulate them on the pathfinding work that they are doing, and assure them that the NHS in her area is seeking to work with other providers to meet the needs of young people and others in the community.

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Photo of Anne Milton Anne Milton Shadow Minister (Health)

The picture around the rest of the country may not be not quite so rosy. Figures show that the number of people admitted to hospital for intentional self-harm has increased by a third in the past five years, from 74,000 to 97,000. More than 4,000 of those admissions were of children under the age of 14. One in eight women admitted to self-harm in 2007, an 80 per cent. increase since 2000. Figures released by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children yesterday show that the number of suicidal children ringing the helpline ChildLine has tripled in the past five years. Is the Minister not ashamed of these appalling figures and the Government's failure to turn the tide on the country's deteriorating mental health?

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Photo of Phil Hope Phil Hope Minister of State (Care Services; Minister for the East Midlands), Department of Health

I understand the hon. Lady's concerns; it just surprises me sometimes when Opposition Front-Bench spokespersons reel off a list of statistics without asking questions and, more importantly, without acknowledging the substantial extra investment that this Labour Government have put in place and which her party voted against in every Budget since 1997. The issues that she highlights are serious and need to be addressed. I am pleased that the suicide rate in England continues to fall. It is now at its lowest since records began in 1861, and is among the lowest in Europe. I am also pleased that the World Health Organisation said:

"The ambition and pace of change in England has been remarkable over the last 10 years, and mental health services here are increasingly being seen across Europe as a model to follow."

That is a record that the Labour Government are proud of, but we know that there is more to do and we will continue to press forward to improve services across the country.

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Photo of Doug Naysmith Doug Naysmith Labour, Bristol North West

In his reply to my hon. Friend Lyn Brown, my hon. Friend the Minister said that there had been a 70 per cent. increase in clinical psychology—I think the figure was 70 per cent.—but he will know, as I do, that that was from a pretty low base. Can he assure me that he will redouble his efforts to ensure increased numbers of clinical psychologists? Too often people who have been prescribed clinical psychology have to wait for it.

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Photo of Phil Hope Phil Hope Minister of State (Care Services; Minister for the East Midlands), Department of Health

My hon. Friend is right to say that we inherited a pretty poor show from the Conservatives after they were in power for 18 years. We are endeavouring to increase the quality of mental health services. This year is the last year of the national service framework for mental health, and it is the year in which we intend to look forward to establishing a new strategy for mental health services. Building on the success that we have had so far, we will be launching our New Horizons project to go out to consultation to enable us to hear throughout the country what more we can do to embed success in our mental health services, and to go further to ensure that we have mentally healthy communities more widely so that the public health system, as well as specialist services, reach the quality of care that we wish every individual to be able to receive across the country.

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