Mental Health

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 11:33 am on 16 May 2013.

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Photo of Paul Burstow Paul Burstow Chair of the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Party 11:33, 16 May 2013

Yes, I am concerned. The picture is complex. The figures show that spending on adult mental health services over the past couple of years overall has reduced by about 1%, which is not good, but deeper analysis of those figures shows that about half of commissioners have increased their investment and the other half have reduced their investment, so the picture is more complex than it first appears. None the less, it is concerning that services are being withdrawn where they involve providing peer support or reaching into harder-to-reach communities, particularly black and minority ethnic communities, which often get left behind and often are most prone to being subject to the most coercive parts of our mental health system. So I agree with what the hon. Gentleman said.

In the debate last year I was delighted to be able to signal the Government’s support for the Mental Health (Discrimination) (No. 2) Bill, which was introduced by my hon. Friend Gavin Barwell. It is a rare thing—as we heard earlier in the business statement, only about 10 Bills last year which were introduced as private Members’ Bills made it on to the statute book. It was great that that Bill made it on to the statute book, and I congratulate my hon. Friend and all those involved in taking it forward.

I have referred to the mental health strategy for which I had some responsibility. At its heart is the radical—I might even say revolutionary—idea that there should be parity of esteem between physical and mental health. That idea is gathering momentum. We have seen the Government place that notion in the mandate for NHS England as a driving force for the way the Commissioning Board takes its responsibilities forward. It is increasingly on the lips of policy makers and service commissioners. But the recognition that there are critical interdependencies between physical and mental health still has a long way to go.

There are more than 4.6 million people in this country living with long-term physical and mental health problems, and far too often their experience of the NHS is that they are broken down into their constituent diseases, rather than being treated as a whole person. As a result, their physical health needs are treated in one place—in many cases, in many places—and their mental health needs, if they are identified at all, are dealt with in another.