Amendment 5

Part of Health and Care Bill - Committee (Day 1) – in the House of Lords at 6:15 pm on 11th January 2022.

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Photo of Baroness Walmsley Baroness Walmsley Co-Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrat Peers 6:15 pm, 11th January 2022

My Lords, a duty to establish parity of esteem between physical and mental health was, of course, inserted into the Health and Social Care Act 2012 at the instigation of the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins—if I remember rightly, we on these Benches were right behind her. That is not reflected in this Bill, as she said, despite the fact that the importance of addressing mental health issues has been so amply demonstrated by the rise of these problems during the Covid pandemic. The shortage of services to address them is of great concern—services which were already under stress before the pandemic started because of underfunding over many years.

Although the insertion of parity of esteem into the 2012 Act was welcome and significant, no legislation is enough without the resources in cash and people to make it happen. They have not been forthcoming in the amounts needed to match the growing demand. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, and my noble friend Lady Tyler, I too have heard concerns in the sector that the share of resources that are currently available might be cut over the next three years under the Government’s plans.

The situation is not good. Waiting lists, particularly for children and young people, have been growing. I understand that the average waiting time for a young person for a first appointment is something like 13 weeks and 18 weeks to get to a referral for treatment. It is a bit of a postcode lottery, because some young people get there quite quickly and some wait a very long time. The noble Lord, Lord Warner, is absolutely right that it takes a great deal longer for those waiting for a diagnosis of autism.

According to research from the Resolution Foundation, in 2000, 24% of 18 to 24 year-olds had a common mental disorder. That was the lowest rate of any age group at that time. By 2018-19, that figure had grown to 30% and, astonishingly, by April 2020 it was up to 51%. So, as we set up the new integrated care system, it is essential that we restate the equivalence of mental and physical health. We know, as the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, so eloquently reminded us, that each affects the other, but it is not enough to assume that that is understood in this legislation. It must be clearly stated in both Clause 16 and Clause 20, where the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, seeks to add it to the duty of the ICSs to secure improvement in the quality of services. We support her, of course.

Perhaps at this point I will mention my little amendments in this group. Amendments 48 and 49 are two of those little amendments that would insert the words “physical or mental” illness into Clause 16, which specifies a list of health provision that the ICB must make for its population. Other noble Lords would insert similar amendments into other places in the Bill. I support all of them.

Amendment 76 would also insert parity of esteem into new Section 14Z38 in Clause 20, which refers to the duty to obtain appropriate advice. We put it there to emphasise the fact that mental health is a very specialised area, and often very good advice can be obtained from small community or not-for-profit social enterprises that deliver mental health services in the community where people work and live, often to very marginalised groups. Large organisations such as an ICS might very easily overlook such good advice about what is needed and where to put it. I support the amendment spoken to by my noble friend Lady Tyler that the triple aim must become a quadruple aim. Mental health needs to go right at the core of what we are trying to achieve.

There is an enormous and growing number of people in the country with poor mental health. The NHS cannot just treat its way out of the problem. There needs to be more focus on public mental health, much of which is addressed by the small community groups I just mentioned, the role of which we will deal with later with Amendment 148 and others. But without the specific acceptance of the parity of esteem duty in the Bill, there is a danger that the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of mental ill-health will continue to take a back seat. It must be in the statute.