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The National Health Service

Part of Speaker’s Statement – in the House of Commons at 6:16 pm on 23rd October 2019.

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Photo of Preet Kaur Gill Preet Kaur Gill Shadow Minister (International Development) 6:16 pm, 23rd October 2019

It is an honour to follow Chris Stephens, who made a passionate speech, especially in respect of the women born in the 1950s who have been denied their pension rights.

I was disappointed to see only one reference to mental health in the Queen’s Speech, and even then it was a reference only to the Mental Health Act. I was disappointed to see in the attached background briefing that the Government’s much vaunted parity of esteem does not stretch to any new funding for mental health services. One in 10 children and young people in the UK suffers at some point with mental ill health. In Birmingham, nearly 40% of the population are under 25. Mr Deputy Speaker, I am sure that you will be horrified to learn that, despite that, for the whole of Birmingham, there is only one early intervention counselling service for young people.

The most recent count of the counselling service waiting list saw 400 young people waiting for a service—that is 400 young people in desperate need of support who require treatment urgently; that is 400 young people who will have to wait months to see someone; and that is 400 young people and families who, in most cases, have nowhere else to turn. This unwillingness to recognise or properly fund vital prevention is yet another example of the Conservative Government failing our children and young people.

Is the Secretary of State surprised that more and more young people are ending up in A&E when we neglect early intervention care? We need to listen to young people themselves about the growing needs that they have. The Government are not doing that, which is why I have launched a young people’s mental health working group, supported by Open Door, which is a local counselling charity in my constituency, and the Centre for Mental Health. This group will use its unique perspective to help to shape the services that young people use for the better.

Young people have a voice that we need to listen to, so what steps are the Government taking to ensure that they work closely with young people with lived experience of mental health when developing legislative and non-legislative actions related to mental health? Cuts have consequences. Slashing budgets removes safety nets for the most vulnerable in our society and has knock-on effects. I am sure that the Secretary of State knows that excluded students are 10 times more likely to suffer from mental health problems. What steps is he taking alongside his colleague in the Department for Education to support those students, rather than just hanging them out to dry?

An inquiry by Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust into 11 deaths found that they were probably avoidable. That is unacceptable, and it is vital that lessons are learnt. With one of the highest levels of beds occupied by patients with complex needs and one of the lowest numbers of beds per 100,000—coupled with cuts and underinvestment under the Conservatives—what steps is the Secretary of State taking to ensure that my constituents will be properly looked after, and that no more families will be forced to go through the pain and heartbreak of being told that a loved one’s death was probably avoidable?

I will touch briefly on the Secretary of State’s favourite private healthcare company—or at least the one he talks about the most and publicly endorses while simultaneously insisting that there will be no more privatisation of the NHS under him. The Secretary of State is not alone in his support for Babylon and, as I am sure the House is well aware, the most senior member of the Prime Minister’s team advised Babylon as recently as last year. The reason that hospitals such as the Queen Elizabeth in my constituency are being forced to take risks in using totally unproven private technical solutions is that they are not receiving sufficient support from this Government. Over the past nine years, the Tories have stripped the NHS and made it about profit, rather than patients.

My constituents are rightly worried about the continued growth of companies such as Babylon, as its tentacles in Birmingham reach out beyond the GP at hand. The Secretary of State holds this company up as a beacon of light for replacing face-to-face services, but 94% of enrolled patients are under the age of 45 and two thirds live in more affluent areas. Can he tell me how it will work for my more vulnerable constituents, and will he give us answers to the myriad other justified concerns of GPs, CCGs and professional bodies?

I conclude by paying tribute to the magnificent practitioners and staff who work day in, day out across our various health services. I thank those who come from around the world to support us when we need it—due to mental health problems, physical ailments, old age or any other issue. These people deserve to be supported, properly resourced and treated with respect, and they deserve a Government who give them more than empty rhetoric. I am sorry that, over the last nine years, under the coalition and then the Conservative Government, they have not been treated in the way in which they deserve.