Health and Social Care

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:28 pm on 16th January 2020.

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Photo of Matthew Hancock Matthew Hancock Secretary of State for Health and Social Care 12:28 pm, 16th January 2020

Absolutely. I am glad that we resolved the problems with the Countess of Chester Hospital serving patients who live in north Wales. I know that part of the world well, not least because I was born in the Countess of Chester Hospital and, for the first 18 years of my life, lived but a mile from my hon. Friend’s beautiful Wrexham constituency—I travelled through it every day on my way to school—so I know these cross-border issues intimately. It is ridiculous that we reached a position where the Countess of Chester Hospital was unable to take patients from north Wales because the Welsh NHS was unwilling to pay the relevant costs. We reached a good compromise, and we must ensure that it keeps working so that the problem does not happen again.

I will turn briefly to the fifth and sixth measures, Mr Deputy Speaker, which are very important. The fifth measure is mental health reform. Throughout the entire history of healthcare, mental health has been seen, treated and organised on a different basis from physical health. That is wrong. Over my generation the attitude that society takes towards mental health has fundamentally shifted. We are not there yet, but our mental health and physical health must be seen on an equal footing, and mental health must be treated as seriously as physical health.

As Health Secretary, I have made mental health a priority. Within the £33.9 billion of additional funding, mental health funding is increasing the fastest. We have a plan to improve mental health services across the nation. Just this week we opened a new gambling addiction clinic in Sunderland, and we will have 13 more across the country, in recognition of the unmet demand in our society. I fully support Claire Murdoch, the NHS mental health director, in her call today on gambling firms to act responsibly and prevent the loss of life.

We are making progress in how we treat all forms of mental ill health, but the legislation for mental health was written for a previous generation and we must bring it into the 21st century. The Mental Health Act 1983 is nearly 40 years old, and some of our legislation is still shaped by 19th-century views of mental illness. It is badly in need of modernisation. It is paramount that we ensure that people have greater control over their treatment, and that everyone receives the dignity and respect they deserve. We must get the legislation right. I pay tribute to Sir Simon Wessely for the work that he has done to set the parameters. We will publish a White Paper within months and then bring forward a new mental health Bill.

I want to say a word about the law governing the care of people with autism and learning disabilities, which concerns some of the most vulnerable people in our society. Again, parts of the law are antiquated. We are looking at this alongside the work on the Mental Health Act to ensure that the systems are appropriate and co-ordinated.

These are the six health and social care measures in the Queen’s Speech. It is central to this Government’s priorities that we meet the public’s expectations and deliver on our commitments. This Conservative Government made clear and solemn commitments in our manifesto. People in their millions placed their trust in us, many for the first time. People have entrusted us with the future of the NHS, and we will deliver on that trust.