Health: Parity of Esteem - Question for Short Debate

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:07 pm on 28th November 2016.

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Photo of Lord Cotter Lord Cotter Liberal Democrat 7:07 pm, 28th November 2016

My Lords, this subject has been raised before, and I thank my noble friend Lord Alderdice for raising it once again. It is a crucial matter that has to be examined frequently—or, shall I say, continuously. We are living through a period when, time and again, there is concern about the funding of the NHS as a whole. Is it adequate or not? We need to be very concerned about parity between mental and physical health.

Mental health issues are not always taken seriously because, unlike physical conditions, they cannot always be seen, and it is only in recent years that the extent of the problem has become a national issue. One in 10 of five to 16 year-olds has a diagnosable mental health problem. It is also the greatest reason for death in young men, as has been mentioned. A mental health problem can start early and be a lifetime issue.

I will address one specific area of mental health, CAMHS, which stands for child and adolescent mental health services. I understand that every town or area in the country has a CAMHS team, and the concern is whether funding intended specifically for the CAMHS team is always being kept for that team. Can the Minister look into this? There is concern that CAMHS funding specifically intended for that role has been used to plug problems in local areas with local hospitals and suchlike. Is CAMHS funding, which is so important to address this issue, always being ring-fenced?

I want to repeat concerns that were raised earlier this year when The Five-Year Forward View for Mental Health was published by the Mental Health Taskforce. I draw this independent report again to the Minister’s attention. Its foreword says:

“For far too long, people of all ages with mental health problems have been stigmatised and marginalised, all too often experiencing an NHS that treats their minds and bodies separately. Mental health services have been underfunded for decades, and too many people have received no help at all, leading to hundreds of thousands of … tragic and unnecessary deaths”.

I urge the Government to look at that report again and be aware of the need to address the whole issue of mental health.

Previously in debate, a government Minister said that he agreed that the Government and Ministers needed to be held to account once or twice a year. I am glad to have taken part in this very necessary debate to hold the Government frequently to account. On that note, and with my concern about local funding for the help that is needed for children and young people, I urge the Minister, as we all do, to look into these problems.