My Lords, I am delighted to speak to this group of amendments, and I associate myself very closely with the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Stevens of Birmingham, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins. I declare my interest in working for the Dispensing Doctors’ Association. I speak particularly to Amendment 263, in my name and that of the noble Baroness, Lady Tyler of Enfield, and Amendment 138, in my name and those of the noble Baronesses, Lady Tyler, Lady Watkins of Tavistock and Lady Bennett of Manor Castle.
All of us are touched by knowing or learning of those who suffer from mental health problems, and I express my disappointment as well to see that there has been no parity of esteem or parity of funding between physical and mental health. I urge my noble friend the Minister, when responding, to give a commitment, in the context of the Bill, to ensure that the role of the ICS and the other bodies under the Bill will make this happen for the first time in reality.
There are particular issues, as I have seen closely, primarily as an MP but also previously as a shadow Minister. In rural areas, particularly in isolation and where there are pockets of poverty, poor mental health is suffered particularly by those on low incomes and pensioners. The farming community, especially in times of hardship, has great difficulty in communicating anxiety and mental stress. Undoubtedly, the current pandemic has taken its toll, not just in terms of self-isolation quarantine but because many businesses, particularly small businesses, have collapsed, often through no fault of those who set them up.
The background to Amendments 138 and 263 is very closely associated with that of the others in this group. I thank and pay tribute to the excellent work of Anne Marie Morris, who moved these in the other place and is chair of the All-Party Group on Rural Health. I commend her work in this regard. As has been indicated, Governments of all persuasions over recent years have spoken regularly about their desire to achieve parity of esteem between mental and physical health, including in the NHS 10-year plan. However, for this to be meaningful, there must be a legal obligation in the Bill to that effect, supported by reporting mechanisms on inputs to the mental health system, in terms of money, people trained and training places, as well as outputs resulting, including the number of mental health appointments or services made available, uptake of those appointments and the outcomes—namely, the number of patients discharged from care.
Amendments 138 and 263 seek to identify whether current policy and inputs are working in promoting this long sought-after parity of esteem. They also help us identify any ICSs that are particularly falling behind in their efforts. It is hoped that this will be an encouragement to step up and improve. Amendment 138 seeks for the new clause to require the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care to make an annual statement on how the funding received by mental health services in that year from the overall annual allotment has contributed to the improvement of mental health and the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of mental illness. Equally, Amendment 263 would require an ICB to report on assessing and meeting parity of physical and mental health outcomes. That report would be key in establishing their success.
I hope that my noble friend the Minister will confirm when summing up that this is a one-off opportunity finally to reach parity of esteem between physical and mental health outcomes and that we must have them in the Bill.