Tackling poor mental health must be a priority and Ministers have legislated to treat it with the same importance as physical health. Progress is being made with more Government investment in mental health. An estimated 1,400 more people now access mental health services every day compared to 2010. This is an increase of 40% and, in addition, 750,000 more people now access talking therapies since 2009/10.
In February 2016, an independent Mental Health Taskforce published a new national strategy, setting out an ambitious vision for mental health services.
In order to realise these recommendations, the Government will spend an additional £1 billion on mental health by 2020-21 so that people receive the right care, in the right place, when they need it most. This includes increasing the number of people completing talking therapies by 600,000 per year, and helping 20,000 more people to find or stay in work through individual placement support and talking therapies.
A further £1.25 billion is to be allocated for perinatal and children and young people’s mental health. This will assist professionals in early intervention and more than double the number of pregnant women or new mothers receiving mental health support while training around 1,700 new therapists. An additional £150 million will support teenagers with eating disorders.
The Government has introduced the first-ever mental health access and waiting time standards. 75% of people referred for talking therapies to treat common mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety, start their treatment within 6 weeks, and 95 % within 18 weeks. These targets have been met and the latest data shows that in May 2016, 84% of people waited less than 6 weeks and 97 % of people waited fewer than 18 weeks. Also, patients experiencing psychosis for the first time must be treated within two weeks. I appreciate that there are a lot of statistics being quoted and that we must consider patients, not just numbers but I hope this reassures you of the Government’s commitment.
The Government also announced reform to mental health policy in the latest Queen’s Speech, in order to continue to reduce the number of people detained in police cells under the Mental Health Act. In October 2017, the Prime Minister announced that the Government would embark on a comprehensive review of the Mental Health Act, which has remained unchanged for more than three decades. This review will examine existing practices, and address the disproportionately high rates of detention of people from ethnic minorities. I am happy to note that the review will be led by Professor Sir Wessely, a former president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, and he will consider the needs of all users of mental health services and their families, with a view to improving the system’s support for those experiencing a mental health crisis.
This will address the concerns raised by the Private Member’s Bill, sponsored by Steve Reed MP as it will specifically investigate issues regarding detention, and how recent practice can be out of step with a modern mental health system. As I understand, the Government expects some of the solutions to lie in practice, leadership, and culture, as well as possible legislation.