Children and Mental Health Services — [Mark Pritchard in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:15 pm on 16th July 2019.

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Photo of Kevan Jones Kevan Jones Labour, North Durham 3:15 pm, 16th July 2019

I thank Andrew Griffiths for securing this debate. It is important because the simple way to change attitudes around mental health in this country is to talk about it. The more we do it in Parliament, the better. I pay tribute to all those, including charities such as Rethink Mental Illness, that have made a real step change in the way that we consider mental health in this country. I also give credit to the Minister. She obviously does not know what will happen next week in terms of the change in Prime Minster, but she has been a great champion for mental health in not only doing the work that she does, but caring about it. Sometimes we get a Minster who simply goes through the motions, but this Minister cares deeply about the subject and has made a real difference.

The point about finance is important in mental health. That point has been made over the years not only in respect of adult services, but in respect of children’s services, and it has been made again today. Having the proper workforce is also important. I do not want to relegate those two issues because they are very important in this debate, but the other thing that often does not get spoken about is having a proper pathway into a service, which is a mess at the moment, partly as a result of reorganisations in the health service. We have also had cuts to local authorities and they can no longer afford to fund voluntary sector organisations. Sure Start centres have been cut, and the cuts are having an impact on people’s access to services.

I pay tribute to CAMHS. They get a bad name, but they are trying their best in the impossible job that we give them. We have to try and turn down the pipeline of people going into CAMHS services. The only way we can do that is if we have a proper triage system before going into CAMHS, so that people know whether they can get help elsewhere. We often over-medicalise mental health conditions. The Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys mental health trust in my area has a good pilot that pays for a psychiatrist to sit in a GP’s surgery so that a mental health professional can triage cases as they come in. I do not want to criticise GPs, but they are not mental health professionals. They should have a mental health professional who can triage the cases that need to go through to CAMHS or other adult mental health services and then they can try to help the others.

We need a local network of support organisations, whether it is the voluntary sector, as the hon. Member for Burton rightly pointed out, or others that do fantastic work. He put his finger on the issue of how we tender for mental health services. I am sorry, but the ones that I speak to in County Durham have contracts that are too big and they do not have the capacity to take them on, but they do valuable work in the community. In some cases, it is a way of taking pressure off the pipeline going into CAMHS and adult mental services. Parents want to know where to go, so we need signposts and pathways so that people do not wait 12 months or longer to get into CAMHS, thinking that will somehow answer their questions.