Ensuring that people aren’t afraid to acknowledge or seek treatment for mental health conditions is a critical step in building a society at ease with itself.
After all, perhaps a quarter of us will deal with a mental health condition at some point in our lifetimes. It seems unimaginable that something so common is still considered by some people to be a taboo. Nevertheless, we have undoubtedly made progress over the last few decades. The National Attitudes to Mental Illness survey, which has been conducted since 1993, has found continual increases in public acceptance over public attitudes towards mental health over the past 2 decades. This is a trend that I am sure will continue.
I was very proud when a Conservative-led Government changed the NHS’ constitution in order to put mental health conditions on parity of esteem with physical health conditions, but there is undoubtedly still more to do.
A clear pre-requisite for helping more people to get mental health treatment is to provide more resources within the NHS budget. Last year the amount spent by the NHS on mental health treatment increased by 3.3% to £11.86bn.
But much of the spending within the NHS is distributed and administrated at a local level. That is why I was pleased to see that in answer to a question I recently asked in Parliament the Government has said that in its mandate to the NHS for this year it is requiring Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG) to show “measurable progress towards the parity of esteem for mental health enshrined in the NHS Constitution, particularly for those in vulnerable situations”.
However, putting mental health on parity with physical health requires more than just spending more taxpayer’s money. It also requires a complete rethink of the way we think of health to ensure that mental health is represented at every level and opportunity.
For example: rehabilitating prisoners. Prisoners are disproportionately likely to suffer from mental health conditions and releasing prisoners back into society without getting to the core of their issue is a recipe for crime, recidivism and broken lives.
That is why I asked the Government an additional question on what it is doing to ensure greater provision of mental health treatment in prisons. I was pleased to see that the Government has managed to recruit an additional 2,500 prison officers several months ahead of schedule, which will ensure that more prisoners can get one-to-one support and enabled to seek treatment.
Another example is first aid. There are numerous courses for first aid training, which is taught everywhere from the workplace, to schools to the Scouts. If we want to put mental health on parity with physical health then courses should teach people how to identify, understand and help someone who may be experiencing a mental health issue as well.
In answer to a Parliamentary Question I recent asked, the Government has said that it is investing £5m over the next 4 years into delivering mental health first aid and awareness training to every member of staff at an English primary school.
Moreover, the Government also revealed in answer to my question that this autumn it will be launching a £15m national campaign to train 1m people in mental health awareness and first aid.
The fact that this quite modest sum of money (approximately 0.0125% of the health budget) can train 1m people shows that it is not an unwillingness to spend money on health that has held us back, it has been society’s general aversion to talking about mental health.
Thanks to changes by the Conservatives, more people than ever before are getting mental health treatment. With more incremental progress, we will continue the process of ensuing that no-one is left to cope with a mental health condition by themselves.
Question 1: To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what steps his Department has taken to promote parity of treatment of mental and physical health conditions. (163060)
Answer: Jackie Doyle-Price:
The Government enshrined parity of esteem in physical and mental health in law in the Health and Social Care Act 2012. The NHS Constitution now states that the National Health Service “is designed to improve, prevent, diagnose and treat both physical and mental health problems with equal regard”.
The Department is investing in mental health to expand and improve services via the Mental Health Five Year Forward View. Spending on mental health increased to a planned £11.86 billion in 2017/18. NHS England’s Mental Health Investment Standard requires the local NHS clinical commissioning groups to increase mental health investment by at least the same proportion as overall allocations.
The Government’s mandate to NHS England for 2018-19 states that clinical commissioning groups should show “measurable progress towards the parity of esteem for mental health enshrined in the NHS Constitution, particularly for those in vulnerable situations”.
Question 2: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what steps his Department has taken to promote mental health treatment in prisons. (163062)
Answer: Rory Stewart:
Health services in public prisons in England, including mental health treatment, are commissioned and reviewed by NHS England. In Wales, health is devolved to the Welsh Government. However, as signatories to the National Partnership Agreement for Prison Healthcare 2018-2021, the Department works closely with health partners to support the delivery of healthcare by ensuring prisoners are able to access these services.
That is why we are investing in our workforce. We have met our target to recruit an additional 2,500 prison officers several months ahead of schedule, helping to ensure that prisoners can be supported to attend scheduled healthcare appointments and receive weekly, one-to-one support from a named prison officer. These officers will coach, signpost and encourage individuals in order that they feel settled and safe and part of this may include signposting individuals to mental health treatment in prison.
Beyond staff support, HMPPS invests in various support services for prisoners which can help promote mental health treatment. For example, HMPPS recently refreshed its partnership with the Samaritans to continue funding the Listeners scheme, which trains selected prisoners to provide emotional support to peers.
The Department recognises the impact that the prison environment can have on prisoner health and wellbeing, particularly for prisoners with a mental health diagnosis. This is why we are focussing on getting the basics right through our prison estate transformation programme, delivering decent prisons that improve opportunities for rehabilitation and create safe and secure environments for staff and offenders.
Question 3: To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what steps his Department has taken to promote mental health first aid. (163061)
Answer: Jackie Doyle-Price MP:
The Department has committed to delivering mental health “first aid” training to a member of staff in all schools across England by the end of this Parliament.
The programme to deliver Youth Mental Health First Aid training to secondary school staff is in its second year of delivery. We have so far invested over £450,000 in the programme, and have delivered the training to staff in over 1,300 secondary schools. We expect to reach 2,000 schools by the end of 2018/19.
The Department has set aside a further £5 million to deliver mental health first aid and awareness training to a member of staff in all primary schools across England by the end of this Parliament.
In addition to this, the Department is working with Public Health England to launch a £15 million national campaign in autumn 2018 to train 1 million people in mental health awareness and first aid.