The mental health debate, the first in over four years, covered a broad range of issues and has been greatly welcomed by the Mental Health Network.
A number of MPs discussed their own mental health experiences during the debate including former Defence Minister Kevan Jones, All Party Parliamentary Group for Mental Health Chair Charles Walker, Andrea Leadsom MP and Health Select Committee member, Dr Sarah Wollaston.
There was wide agreement across the House that the stigma which exists in relation to mental health conditions needs to be tackled and that the debate made a positive contribution to these efforts.
During the wide ranging debate a number of MPs discussed issues raised by the MHN in a briefing to parliamentarians that included the commissioning of mental health services, employers’ role in tackling the stigma which exists around mental health, the importance of wellbeing services, the impact of poor housing on mental health and diversion services in the criminal justice system.
In particular Conservative MP Nicky Morgan, who introduced the debate, reflected the points made in MHN’s briefing.
Health Minister, Paul Burstow stated that there is no health without mental health, something which he argued sums up the Government’s approach to mental health. He said the Government recognises in their mental health strategy the need to tackle the root causes of mental illness as well as ensuring that community and acute services provide timely care. The Minister argued that the strategy also recognises that significant improvements in people’s health and wellbeing requires parity of esteem between physical and mental health.
Mr Burstow also highlighted current work being led by Mental Health Network and the Centre for Mental Health on the development of recovery-focused services through the Implementing Recovery through Organisation Change (ImROC) Project.
The Minister also stated a number of organisations, including the Mental Health Network, who have been involvement in developing the framework being produced by the Government to implement the mental health strategy.
Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham argued that changes to demography require a change in how we provide health and social care. Mr Burnham called for a whole-person approach that combines not only physical but the mental and social care, arguing that Mental health must move from the margins to the centre of the NHS. He was supportive of the co-location of acute care and mental health care within the same hospital and also highlighted that practitioners who work at a primary care level should not always reach for medical intervention but first consider social or psychological intervention.
There was widespread support across the House, including from the Government and Opposition, for Gavin Barwell MP’s Mental Health (Discrimination) Bill which would remove restrictions on people with a history of serious mental health issues from holding certain public offices, including Member of Parliament.
Summary of key points
Paul Burstow, Care Services Minister
Mr Burstow stated that there is no health without mental health, something which he argued sums up the Government’s approach to mental health. He said the Government recognises in their mental health strategy the need to tackle the root causes of mental illness as well as ensuring that community and acute services provide timely care. The Minister argued that the strategy also recognises that significant improvements in people’s health and wellbeing requires parity of esteem between physical and mental health.
The Minister argued that the Government has invested in psychological therapies available for adults and are now breaking new ground by investing in a new training-led approach to re-equip children and young people’s mental health services to offer a range of psychological therapies.
Mr Burstow argued that improvements in community-based early intervention services are driving up standards but more needs to be done, particularly on the need to look at the accessibly of mental health advocacy.
The Minster mentioned the work being led by the Mental Health Network and the Centre for Mental Health on the development of recovery-focused services.
The Minister stated that AQP and tariff reform will play an important part in ensuring “no decision about me without me” in mental health services.
The Minister agreed about the importance in tackling mental health stigma and discrimination which is why the Government are contributing funding to the “Time to Change” campaign. The challenges around mental health are not just for the NHS but for society. Mr Burstow added, “We can transform mental health in this country only if we transform attitudes.”
Indicated that the Government was supportive of Croydon Central MP, Gavin Barwell MP’s private member’s Bill which would remove restrictions on people with a history of serious mental health issues from holding certain public offices, including Member of Parliament.
The Minister stated a number of organisations, including the NHS Confederation, who have been involvement in developing the framework being produced by the Government to implement the mental health strategy.
Andy Burnham (Shadow Health Secretary)
Mr Burnham argued that changes to demography require a change in how we provide health and social care. He called for a whole-person approach that combines not only the physical but the mental and social. Mental health must move from the margins to the centre of the NHS, Mr Burnham argued. As such, he was supportive of the co-location of acute care and mental health care within the same hospital. Also, practitioners who work at a primary care level should not always reach for medical intervention before considering asocial or psychological intervention.
Mr Burnham raised concerns that waiting times for psychological therapies are increasing in parts of the country where GPs face much longer referral times.
Mr Burnham argued that commissioning arrangements for mental health services in the new system need to be closely looked at.
Mr Burham also pledged the Opposition’s full support for Gavin Barwell MP’s private member’s Bill which would remove restrictions on people with a history of serious mental health issues from holding certain public offices, including Member of Parliament.
Dr John Pugh MP (Co-chair of the Lib Dem backbench health policy committee)
Dr Pugh called for better public education about what mental health actually is and what mental illness and frailty actually are. He also argued that more needs to be done to promote wellbeing in work and employers should be encouraged to have mental health policies.
Nicky Morgan (Conservative MP for Loughborough) – introducing the debate
Ms Morgan felt that the Health and Social Care Act offers an opportunity for improving mental health commissioning.
She argued that removing the stigma attached to mental health issues was essential in order to achieve parity between physical and mental health conditions. Ms Morgan felt it was particularly important for employers not to discriminate against those with mental health issues, something highlighted in the MHN briefing.
Ms Morgan called for the Secretary of State’s annual mandate to the NHS Commissioning Board to insist the board prioritises mental health.
Ms Morgan argued mental health service users must have more choice in the care they receive and that AQP and PbR must be extended to mental health in a way that it has been extended for physical conditions. The voices of service users must be heard in the new NHS structure.
Ms Morgan raised concerns about absconding levels from hospitals following a constituent who escaped for a unit in Leicester and subsequently hanged herself. Ms Morgan felt more research is required into the scale of the problem.
She welcomed the fact that the Government is investing more than £19 million this year in diversion services but felt that it is still taking too long to get prisoners out of prison and into secure hospitals.
Ms Morgan argued that public mental health work and wellness services are essential to tackling mental health conditions.
Kevan Jones (Labour MP for North Durham)
Mr Jones raised concerns about cuts to mental health services funding at a local level.
Also expressed concerns that while many GPs are passionate about mental health, others are not and this was worrying given their new role in commissioning services. He also felt health and wellbeing boards would need members who have a good understanding of mental health issues.
He called for a system where employers have a good understanding of mental health issues and can makes adaptations for employees.
Argued that the DH and Department for Work and Pensions should develop a specific work test for those with mental health issues when assessing them for benefit eligibility.
In addition, he spoke about his own depression, calling for the House of Commons authorities to do more to support MPs with mental health issues.
Charles Walker ( Conservative MP for Broxbourne)
Mr Walker, who chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group on Mental Health spoke about his obsessive compulsive disorder.
Called for improvements to be made to the independent mental health advocacy which is available for those who face incarceration or are on community treatment orders.
Jim Shannon (DUP MP for Strangford)
Called for the stigma and discrimination around mental health issues to be tackled. Argued there is a need to strengthen individuals by addressing emotional resilience and promoting life coping skills.
Robert Buckland (Conservative MP for Swindon)
Argued wellbeing services must be an important part of mental health services.
He also argued for more support from employers for people with mental health conditions.
Jeremy Corbyn (Labour MP for Islington North)
Mr Corbyn raised concerns about high suicide rates in the UK. He was also concerned about cuts to mental health services being made in his constituency.
Mr Corbyn highlighted the many economic factors associated with stress including overcrowding, housing uncertainty and lack of secure tenure.
Sir Peter Bottomley (Conservative MP for Worthing West)
Sir Peter praised the work of former MHN chair and Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, Lisa Rodrigues. He quoted from the Trust’s weekly newsletter about their work including Lisa’s comments regarding the contribution of specialist mental health services to tackling dementia and the fact that mental health services working more effectively will reduce the burden on physical health services.
Lyn Brown (Labour MP for West Ham)
Ms Brown highlighted the link between mental ill health and deprivation, including poor housing as well as the mental health issues faced by young people in her constituency.
Sir Paul Beresford (Conservative MP for Mole Valley)
Sir Paul spoke about the good work done by the charity Combat Stress for veterans with mental health issues and the stigma faced by these veterans.
Dr Sarah Wollaston (Conservative MP for Totnes and Health Select Committee member)
Dr Wollaston spoke about her severe post natal depression. She defended the role of GPs in offering effective care to those with mental health issues.
Dr Wollaston asked what the Government is doing to ensure there is sufficient user voice throughout the NHS including on HealthWatch, health and wellbeing boards and the NHS Commissioning Board.
Dr Wollaston also questioned who in the new system would be accountable for the successful implementation of the strategy locally and regionally and what levers for change can they exert.
Alison Seabeck (Labour MP for Plymouth, Moor View)
Ms Seabeck spoke about the stigma attached to mental health and also the impact of poor housing on mental wellbeing.
Dr Philip Lee (Conservative MP for Bracknell)
Dr Lee raised concerns about the commissioning of psychiatric services by GPs. He suggested the Government consider better training in this area for GPs in order to improve their knowledge base.
Dr Julian Lewis (Conservative MP for New Forest East)
Dr Lewis expressed concern that the “safety net” of acute beds would be removed when reconfigurations relocated services to the community.
Matthew Offord (Conservative MP for Hendon)
Mr Offord expressed concerns about the stigma attached to mental health and called on both politicians and the media to address this.
Andrea Leadsom (Conservative MP for South Northamptonshire)
Ms Leadsom spoke about her experience of post natal depression. She also argued that support at an young age and early intervention are important in tackling mental health issues.
James Morris (Conservative MP for Halesowen and Rowley Regis)
Mr Morris spoke about the importance of talking therapies. He also called for a more integrated approach at a local level and a focus on mental wellbeing rather than mental illness.