Readers of NHSreality will know that Mental Health and Disability are a major concern and are covertly rationed more than most of the other services. When “Nine health secretaries attack government for failing mentally ill” (Chris Smyth in the Times 18th November) we need to listen and take it seriously. Unfortunately we won’t – it’s going to get worse, mainly because of the first past the post political system with it’s 5 year action plans, second because it takes 10 years to train an effective professional, and thirdly because the Health Services are dependent on overseas staff. These staff are not feeling appreciated – they are even more disillusioned than the regular UK trained staff. ( Nurses leaving NHS ‘because of Brexit’ ) Standards are falling rapidly now… Hospital may face charges over death of actors’ newborn – Simon de Bruxelles. The way forward is honesty…
Every health secretary from the past 20 years has condemned the “enduring injustice” faced by patients with mental illnesses and accused the government of failing to honour pledges to help them.
In an unprecedented intervention, the nine previous holders of the post say they are “alarmed and dismayed” that little has changed since the promise last year that the NHS would treat mental health on a par with physical problems. The last two chief executives of the health service join them in warning that “warm words” were yet to be backed by action to alleviate the suffering of families nationwide.
Their letter to The Times points out that children with eating disorders are being refused treatment until they become dangerously thin and suicidal. Rising numbers of patients in crisis are being “shunted across the country” because of a lack of beds, suicides byyoung men continue to mount and a “growing mental health crisis among young women” is unaddressed, it warns.
The decision by the former health chiefs to speak out reflects wider concern that people with mental illnesses are neglected in a way that would never be accepted for patients with cancer or other physical conditions. One in six adults are estimated to suffer mental health problems, with three quarters receiving no treatment.
Lord Lansley, Jeremy Hunt’s predecessor as health secretary, and his fellow Conservatives Stephen Dorrell and Ken Clarke join former Labour holders of the post, including Andy Burnham, Alan Johnson and John Reid, to urge the chancellor to “make good the promise to achieve genuine equality” in next week’s autumn statement.
Theresa May pledged on arriving in Downing Street to end the “burning injustice” that there was “not enough help to hand” for people with mental illness.
Two in five mental health trusts have had their budgets cut in the last financial year and more than £100 million pledged to children’s services has not materialised, the letter says.
“Despite promised increases in funding, mental health trusts are still suffering cuts,” it adds.
The signatories point to research which has found that 5,500 mental health patients had to travel long distances for treatment last year because of a lack of beds, up 13 per cent. Specialist services turn away a quarter of young people referred to them. A fifth of women aged 16-24 have self-harmed, a rate that has tripled in seven years, yet support for children and young people is “going backwards in many
areas”, they say.
The Liberal Democrat former health minister Norman Lamb arranged the letter. Other signatories include seven former junior health ministers and Sir David Nicholson and Lord Crisp, the last two NHS chief executives. Mr Lamb said: “It is a stain on our country that people with mental ill health are so often treated as second-class citizens.”
Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, said: “We are making progress against our goal to address the difficulties faced by those with mental health problems — spending by clinical commissioning groups has increased by £693 million, every area in the country has put together plans to transform children’s mental health services, and our suicide prevention strategy is to be refreshed, all backed by added investment.”
There were reports yesterday of a patient having to spend two days on a trolley in A&E at King’s College Hospital, London, because there were no beds on the psychiatric unit. Figures showed that some parts of the country spent £2 a head on children’s mental health. Other areas spent 70 times more.
Health chiefs have said that a million more people would be treated for mental health problems each year in a £1 billion pledge to end “the separation of head and body”. Mr Lamb said: “Promised investment hasn’t made the difference many expected, especially for children and young people, where the majority of mental health problems begin.”
The Times has been campaigning to highlight the mental health problems among young people with its Time to Mind campaign.
The Times letter:
EQUALITY PLEA FOR MENTAL HEALTH PATIENTS
Sir, A year ago 250 leaders from across society came together to highlight the current gross disadvantage suffered by those with mental ill health within our NHS. We urged ministers to fulfil their public commitment to ensure that those who suffer from mental ill health have the same timely access to treatment as others enjoy.
We were encouraged by the supportive response from government. However, despite the warm words, one year on we see the same enduring injustice, the massive economic cost and the distress suffered by countless families across the country. Despite promised increases in funding, mental health trusts are still suffering cuts. Suicide remains the biggest killer of men under 45, people in crisis are still routinely shunted across the country in search of a hospital bed, children with eating disorders are too often turned away from services, and there is a growing mental health crisis among young women.
We are alarmed and dismayed that so many of these points echo those made a year ago when promises of real change were made by David Cameron and George Osborne. We urge their successors to make good the promise of genuine equality.
Andy Burnham, Kenneth Clarke, Frank Dobson, Stephen Dorrell, Patricia Hewitt, Alan Johnson, Andrew Lansley, Alan Milburn, John Reid, all former health secretaries; Paul Burstow, Caroline Flint, Tessa Jowell, Norman Lamb, Ivan Lewis, Dan Poulter, all former health ministers; Sarah Wollaston, chairwoman, health select committee; David Nicholson, Nigel Crisp, former CEOs of the NHS; Alastair Campbell, Andrew Mitchell, co-founders, Equality4Mental Health