My Lords, I rise to speak to the rather large list of amendments in this group—15 at the last count—to which my name is attached. I declare my interests as laid out in the register, particularly my new registered interest as a non-executive director of the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust.
Before turning to specific amendments, I have a couple of general points which apply across the board. The first concerns the scale of demand. Despite welcome investment and greater focus in recent years on mental health, there are now an estimated 1.6 million people waiting to access mental health services and so on a waiting list, and prevalence data suggests that some 8 million people with emerging mental health issues would benefit from services if they were able to meet the thresholds to access them.
Frankly, there are still too many instances of mental health services not being prioritised, such as the lack of investment in the mental health estate, which has a real impact on the trust’s ability to ensure both a safe and, particularly, a therapeutic environment. Also, the Prime Minister’s announcement on investment in new hospitals almost entirely overlooked the needs of mental health trusts.
The second general point is that the need to replicate the parity of esteem duty in the 2012 Bill throughout this Bill is more important than ever at a time when there is growing unmet need across multiple areas of health and care. Local health systems therefore face difficult choices around the allocation of resources. The full mental health impact of the pandemic is still emerging but mental health trust leaders report extraordinary pressures; in particular, a high proportion of children and young people not previously known to services are coming forward for treatment, often more unwell and with more complex problems.
The various amendments in the names of the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, and my noble friend Lady Walmsley to which I have attached my name, and which I strongly support, recognise the important role that NHS England, ICBs, NHS trusts and foundation trusts will each have in advancing parity of esteem between mental and physical health. It will be important that amendments to the Bill that explicitly require the prioritisation of both physical and mental health are made at each level of the system. Simply put, trusts’ ability to prioritise both physical and mental health is crucially dependent on the extent to which integrated care boards and NHS England do the same. Ultimately, of course, each level in the system’s ability to meet this requirement is reliant on the Government prioritising both physical and mental health.
I will turn briefly to various sets of amendments. As I have said, a lot of these amendments are about explicitly including mental health on the face of the Bill, at each level and relating specifically to the NHS triple aim. I want to explain why that is important. As I said, Section 1 of the Health and Social Care Act 2012 enshrined in law a duty for the Secretary of State to secure parity of esteem between mental and physical health services. While the new Bill does not remove the duty from the Secretary of State, it fails to replicate it in the triple aim, and this sends out an unhelpful message. I fully accept that culture change needs far more than legislation but legislation can and does send an important signal, which is why we need parity of esteem strengthened throughout the Bill.
We know that the burden of mental illness in the UK far outstrips spend and that referrals to mental health services were at a peak during the pandemic. Thus, I strongly support the amendments tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, and my noble friend Lady Walmsley which explicitly reference mental health in parts of the Bill setting out how the triple aim applies to trusts, foundation trusts, integrated care boards, NHS England and the licensing of healthcare providers. This would ensure that the whole of the NHS is aware of its duties around parity of esteem.
I turn briefly now to what is happening at the local level. A recent survey by the Royal College of Psychiatrists found that almost two-thirds of responding psychiatrists considered that their local area had been ineffective in working towards parity of esteem, and fewer than one in 10 said that their local area was effectively promoting parity. That is why each ICB should be required to promote parity; it should be included in their forward plans and they should be required to report on it as part of their annual reports. This would help transparency and help to hold the system to account; that is why I have added my name to the amendments from the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, and strongly support a separate amendment from the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, which calls for a duty on ICBs to promote and seek parity of esteem between physical and mental health and, critically, to annually report on their efforts to do so.
I come now to the Secretary of State’s responsibilities in all this. Having the parity of esteem in the 2012 Act has helped to secure welcome and important initiatives, such as the five-year forward view for mental health and the review of the Mental Health Act. Amendment 263 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, to which my name is attached, builds on this duty and requires the Secretary of State to outline to Parliament how the resourcing of mental health services and prevention efforts have ultimately improved care for people with mental illness and those at risk of developing poor mental health. This will bring further and much needed parliamentary scrutiny to this issue, and help us understand how we can build on current efforts to improve care and, most importantly, improve outcomes.
I turn finally to Amendments 5, 12 and 136, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Stevens, regarding the funding of mental health. Of course, financing is one of the most important indicators of parity of esteem—if it is real—and legal teeth to ensure clarity on it are absolutely critical. As I highlighted earlier, even with recent efforts, spending on mental health is not commensurate with the burden of mental illness in this country. Indeed, a King’s Fund analysis recently found that mental health outcomes accounted for 23% of the burden of ill health in the UK but received only 11% of spend for both prevention and treatment.
The Government’s recent spending review did not specifically allocate any additional funding for mental health services, despite over £44 billion being pumped into the NHS over the course of the spending review and services facing increased and sustained pressure. The mental health sector has made it clear that it will need to cut services from April 2022 if additional funding is not received. The noble Lord, Lord Stevens, is very well placed to know the right mechanisms and levers to pull to ensure improvements in how we fund mental health services, and how different parts of the system are held accountable for their efforts to do so.
These three amendments, which build on the mental health investment standard—something I very much welcomed at the time—at a local level for ICBs, adding an additional legislative lever and helping to increase overall transparency on how local areas fund mental health services, are extremely important. Finally, at national level, I strongly support the need for greater transparency for both the Government’s intentions on mental health spending and NHS England’s response to, and meeting of, these intentions.
While we often hear encouraging and warm words of support on mental health from the Government—and they are welcome—these amendments would make clear where those words have been put into action. As the old saying goes, what gets measured gets done.