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Physical and Mental Health Services: Parity of Esteem

Oral Answers to Questions — Health – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 22nd March 2016.

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Photo of Alex Chalk Alex Chalk Conservative, Cheltenham 11:30 am, 22nd March 2016

What progress the Government have made on achieving parity of esteem for physical and mental health services.

Photo of Alistair Burt Alistair Burt The Minister of State, Department of Health

We remain committed to achieving parity of esteem between mental and physical health, and we are investing more than ever in mental health. We welcomed the publication of the Mental Health Taskforce report last month and will work to embed its recommendations in our policies.

Photo of Alex Chalk Alex Chalk Conservative, Cheltenham

Steph Cater, a 17-year-old at Pate’s Grammar School in my constituency, is concerned that mental health in-patient services are distributed unevenly, meaning that those needing treatment can end up being cared for hundreds of miles away from their families. What more can be done to ensure that those in crisis are treated closer to home?

Photo of Alistair Burt Alistair Burt The Minister of State, Department of Health

A review of beds in 2014 partly redressed that uneven distribution. In my hon. Friend’s area, an analysis of the impact of the new beds shows that the average distance travelled to child and adolescent mental health services units in the south-west has improved from 114 miles in 2014 to 39.9 miles in 2016. It is not enough simply to provide more beds, however. We have to provide more community-based support and treatment—that is at the heart of “Future in mind”. The number of out-of-area treatments also has to be reduced.

Photo of Norman Lamb Norman Lamb Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Health)

I was delighted that Paul Farmer’s taskforce report endorsed the plan first proposed by the Secretary of State and myself in 2014 to have comprehensive maximum waiting times in mental health by 2020 so that people with mental ill health have exactly the same right to treatment on time as others. I was delighted that the Government endorsed the whole plan, but dismayed that Simon Stevens then confirmed that there was no money to implement it. How will the Minister ensure that the comprehensive waiting time standards are implemented by 2020?

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Speaker of the House of Commons

If anything, questions are getting longer, not shorter. I say with great courtesy to the right hon. Gentleman, whom I hold in the highest esteem and whose track record is greatly respected across the House, that his question was far too long.

Photo of Alistair Burt Alistair Burt The Minister of State, Department of Health

Two things: the first set of waiting time standards—the first ever by a Government—are already in place from April 2015, with 50% of people experiencing an episode of psychosis treated within two weeks and improved waiting times for talking therapies; and, secondly, we have to get the database right. The right hon. Gentleman will know that we are doing an extensive and much greater data trawl to find a base on which those waiting times can be set, but it remains our determination to get them introduced by 2020.