Author Archives: Norman Lamb MP

Norman Lamb MP writes…We must renew, restructure and simplify the way our party works

I believe a priority for the new Leader of the Liberal Democrats is to renew, restructure and simplify the way our Party works. Some parts of the Party work well – others do not. Good practice should be shared and problem areas tackled.

As Liberal Democrats, we rightly set high standards for ourselves on tolerance, equality, openness, accountability, and diversity.  But our party often doesn’t live up to them.

During this campaign people have been telling me that there wasn’t enough accountability within the party.  People had concerns about our central message and the way we fought the election – but it felt like there was no easy channel to get those messages through.  And where mistakes were made, it wasn’t clear who ultimately was responsible.

Few party members really understand how our party works.  There are so many committees with overlapping responsibility.  The process for election to many offices within the party is arcane.  If no-one knows how our party structures work, there cannot be effective accountability.

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Norman Lamb MP writes: I want us to lead the way in Parliament to allow assisted dying

For many years, I opposed attempts to legalise assisted dying.  I had concerns, shared by many, that the risk to the most vulnerable individuals outweighed the benefits.  Equally, I respect those with deeply held religious concerns.
 
But my views have been challenged in recent years. As an MP and in my role in the last Parliament as a health minister, I have spoken to many terminally ill patients, and the families of those who suffered slow deaths in great pain.
 
So many of them were convinced, when someone is suffering intolerably, and when they are reaching the end of their life, they should be allowed to end their suffering with dignity, and with the support of those closest to them.
 
These testimonies have forced me to think again. Would I want the right to decide for myself, when faced with terminal illness, when I wished to die? And would I want it for loved ones? The answer is unequivocally, yes. 
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Norman Lamb MP writes…We can’t wait another 5 years to have a woman in the party leadership

The campaign for the leadership of our party is now underway and I am excited by the prospect and humbled by the many messages of support and encouragement I have received.

However as a party we need to look at how we operate and what we look like to the outside world. One issue, in particular, now has an urgency to it which we can’t ignore. We have danced around gender imbalance at the highest levels for too long ….. and I am not prepared to wait a further five years before women are able to feature at the leadership level. Given that there were no women elected to the House of Commons and so no woman can stand for the leadership, I believe it is essential that the deputy leader is a woman.

Consequently, as leader I will immediately propose to the federal executive that we should move to elect a Deputy Leader who is not required to be a member of the House of Commons, but who will play a major role as one of the party’s leading voices and campaigners. She could be one of the former or future colleagues mentioned below; a peer, a member of a devolved chamber or the European Parliament; a leading councillor or seasoned campaigner.

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Norman Lamb MP writes – Trust in People: Why I’m standing for party leader

NormanLambThese are devastating results for the Liberal Democrats. All of us are completely shell shocked.

All party members must have a say in our future strategy and new leader. I have clear views on what we need to do and am intending to stand for leader.

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Norman Lamb writes…A blueprint for a fairer society

1 in 4 of us will develop a mental health problem at some point in our lives – and 75% of these conditions develop by the age of 18. If people don’t get the support they need in childhood and adolescence it can have an impact on the rest of their lives.  
 
And in yesterday’s budget, Liberal Democrats acted decisively to make sure the best possible support is available, with £1.25bn of new investment in young people’s mental health services, and a clear blue print for delivering the transformation needed.
 
If we want to build a fairer society, where everyone has the opportunity to realise their full potential in life, we must ensure that young people with mental health problems get the help and support they need.
 
There are some really good mental health services for young people around the country. But too often these services are fragmented and under-resourced, and young people are simply not getting help when they need it.  A complete overhaul is long overdue.
 
Last year, I set up a Task Force to look at how we can link up mental health services with other advice services in the community, making it easier – and less daunting – for young people to seek help, and making sure they get the right support when they ask for it.
 
The task force brought together clinicians, counsellors, and mental health experts – but also, crucially, young people themselves with experience of mental health problems.  The charity Young Minds helped us work with young people to understand the problems they have faced getting help, and their priorities for change.
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Norman Lamb MP writes…Thanks for talking #timetotalk

Time to talk 2015Regular readers will be used to me banging my drum on these pages about the work that Lib Dems are doing in government on mental health.

Mental health has been disadvantaged within the NHS for far too long, and changes like legislating for equality for mental health, introducing the first access and waiting time standards, and – in particular – confronting the poor state of children’s mental health services in many places are all incredibly important.

But something just as important has been happening here on Lib Dem Voice today.

I wrote here about Time to Talk a year ago, saying that contributions from fellow members had reinforced for me, powerfully, why I am a Liberal Democrat. Tackling mental health stigma is fundamentally about freedom – freedom from poverty, ignorance, and conformity.

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Norman Lamb writes … Tackling conversion therapy in the NHS

It may seem hard to imagine, but until 1992 the World Health Organisation classified homosexuality as a form of mental illness. Academic studies have shown an extraordinary prevalence, not too long ago, of therapists seeking to ‘convert’ gay people to become heterosexual – treating people’s sexuality as an illness rather than an inherent part of who they are.

In recent decades, society and the medical professions have fortunately come a long way. Most people now recognise that this as dangerous nonsense.

But there remain a few counsellors who still believe in the “treatment” of homosexuality to combat same-sex attractions.  I said nearly a year ago now that, although there was no evidence to suggest that such practices were taking place in the NHS, I wanted to do all that I could to put an end to them once and for all.

As Liberal Democrats it is incredibly important that we work to create a society which is not only more tolerant and open, but also one in which people are able to access support which helps rather than harms them when they are struggling with issues like their sexual orientation.

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Norman Lamb MP writes… We need to talk openly about suicide and work to prevent it

Yesterday was supposedly “blue Monday” – the most depressing day of the year.  The idea was dreamed up in 2005 by a TV marketing campaign to sell holidays and the myth persists.

But yesterday, Nick Clegg and I were talking about something really serious.  Almost 4,700 people took their own lives in 2013 in England alone, and suicide remains one of the biggest killers for men under the age of 50.  We hosted a conference bringing together leading figures in the mental health world to call for an ambition for ‘zero suicides’ across the NHS.

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Norman Lamb writes… Better care for eating disorders is a top priority

Charlotte Robinson was an incredibly bright, energetic, and well-liked young woman. She was working towards her A-levels, and hoping to attend Cambridge University. But days before her results arrived, Charlotte died. An eating disorder had left her dangerously weak, and she lost her fight with a sudden bout of pneumonia. When her A-level results arrived, she had achieved four As.

The inquest heard it had taken five weeks between Charlotte seeing her GP and an assessment being carried out by a mental health nurse, and it then took another month for any help to start. …

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Norman Lamb writes… NHS needs an extra £1.5 billion

nhs sign lrgFor too long mental health has been seen as a second-class issue in the NHS and I am determined to change that.

Today I’ve called for up to an extra £1.5 billion to be invested in the NHS next April. A significant amount of that money would go towards improving mental health services, especially for children and young people.

At our party conference in Glasgow, Nick Clegg said the Liberal Democrats will spend at least £1bn extra on health and care in each year of the next parliament, including £500m each year for mental health.

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Norman Lamb writes … Improving mental health services for children and young people

healthreportImagine for a minute you are a teenager, perhaps working hard for your A-level exams, struggling with relationships and all the social and academic pressures of school.  And on top of this, you might be among the 1 in 10 of your peers suffering from depression, an eating disorder, or another mental health problem.

But if mental health services are the “Cinderella service” of our NHS, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) are the Cinderella Service of Cinderella Services.  Effective support for a young person experiencing a mental health problem can have a transformative effect on the course of their entire life.  But the current CAMHS system too often is woefully inadequate.

Earlier this year, I launched a CAMHS Task Force involving experts in the field, and also young people who have experience of mental health problems themselves.  The Task Force will look at how we can modernise children’s mental health service, making the best use of the resources available, and reforming services to end the “cliff edge” which occurs when young people move from under-18 care to adult services. It will look at how we can improve access – including through the use of exciting new online services – and how we can reduce the stigma of mental health services.

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Norman Lamb MP writes…Liberal Democrats will fight relentlessly for NHS to have funding it needs

Today Simon Stevens, the Chief Executive of NHS England published his 5-year Forward Look, setting out the challenges facing our health and care system in the coming years.

It makes sobering reading.  Simon Stevens sets out the huge scale of the financial challenge facing us in the years ahead as we continue to adapt to an ageing population, and increasing numbers of people living longer with multiple chronic conditions.  We also need more investment to ensure that people with mental health problems can get the same standard of care and support as with physical health.

Earlier this month, the Liberal Democrats set out their priorities for the NHS.  We committed to investing at least £1bn extra in our health and care system in each year in the next parliament.  £500m of that will go to mental health to ensure mental health patients get fair treatment, and can access the support they need.  And by the end of the next parliament we will give each carer £250 a year to recognise the immense contribution they make to society.

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Norman Lamb MP writes… Thank you, Nick, for your commitment to mental health

No major British political party has ever had a leader more committed to the cause of tackling mental health discrimination than Nick Clegg.

Nick’s first ever question in Prime Minister’s Questions as party leader was about mental health services. And throughout my time as heath minister, I have always been able to rely on Nick’s unwavering support for my work: on promoting parity of esteem for mental health; on tackling unacceptable standards of crisis care and support for children and young people; and in general raising the profile of an area of health that for far too long has been …

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Norman Lamb writes… Extra funding for the NHS is a Lib Dem priority right now

nhs sign lrgAs a society we are judged by the way that we care for the vulnerable, the elderly, and those suffering from illness. Britain can be proud that in 1948 we led the world in laying the foundations for a universal health service, available to all regardless of wealth.

And we continue to lead the world today. Earlier this year the Commonwealth Fund rated the UK NHS best in the world overall, as well as in a number of specific categories.

In this Government, Liberal Democrats have protected health spending, …

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Norman Lamb writes … Dementia: the biggest challenge of our time

My motherThere are currently 800,000 people living with dementia in the UK.  By 2021, that figure is expected to rise to over a million.  The disease costs the economy £23 billion a year, and that figure is expected to treble by 2040.

But as anyone who has come into contact with dementia will know, no statistics can convey the loneliness, isolation, and acute emotional distress that all too often comes with it – not just for those with the condition, but for their carers and family too.

photo by: Vince Alongi
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Norman Lamb writes … we must fight for mental health to get the recognition it needs

Mental health - bipolar -  Some rights reserved by Mrs TeePotIn my time as Mental Health minister, I have written here several times about the unacceptable disparity between mental health and physical health in our health system.  For far too long, physical health has been prioritised over mental health.

Perhaps the most stark difference is in terms of what happens when you suffer a mental health crisis. If you break your arm or suffer a stroke, you know that you will be taken to A&E, where you will get access to the expertise you need.

It’s very different in mental health. You may end up in a police cell or you may get sent a long way away from home to get a bed in a mental health unit. This would never be tolerated in physical health so why should it be acceptable in mental health?

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Norman Lamb MP writes: I am determined everyone should be able to get good quality care

James Terry Court, Croydon - License Some rights reserved by sjr60If you watched Panorama last week, you will have been as horrified as I was by some of the footage.  The treatment portrayed was disgraceful and a very clear illustration of the need for the changes that we are currently introducing in the health and care sector. As Liberal Democrat Care Minister, I am determined that everyone should be able to get good quality care, and to be treated with dignity.

As minister, I want to make sure that we are able to …

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Norman Lamb MP writes: Ending face down restraint

Department of health, mental health care reportI am sure that many of you will remember the stories about the Winterbourne View scandal a couple of years ago.  Vulnerable residents with autism and learning difficulties were subjected to shocking abuse from those who should have been protecting and caring for them.  The review that was carried out into the scandal highlighted the widespread and inappropriate use of physical restraint, including dangerous face-down restraint, at the hospital.

As a Liberal Democrat I am committed to tackling poor quality care, and ensuring that everyone in …

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Norman Lamb MP writes… Improving patient safety in the NHS

Nurse jokes with patientBack in 2012, an independent study of NHS case notes from hospitals concluded that in about 2.3% of hospital deaths there was strong evidence that death could have been prevented. In practice, this equates to around 6,300 preventable deaths in hospitals every year.

This is a shocking statistic. As Liberal Democrats, we should never fall into the trap of talking down the NHS – our health and care services do fantastic work day after day savings lives and providing excellent care.  But we must also be willing to confront …

photo by: NHSE
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Norman Lamb writes: Protecting people’s health and care data

In Government, as in opposition, Liberal Democrats have been staunch defenders of people’s right to privacy, campaigning against state intrusion into people’s private lives.  Our 2010 manifesto included commitments to scrap Identity Cards, block Home Office plans to snoop into people’s email and internet records, and remove innocent people from police DNA databases.  In Government, we have delivered: ID cards were stopped, the “snoopers’ charter” revived by Tories at the Home Office was killed off by Nick Clegg, and millions of people’s DNA records have been deleted from Police databases.

People have a fundamental right to expect personal information to be …

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Norman Lamb writes… Working together for better mental health crisis care

When someone is experiencing a mental health crisis, it essential that they feel able to access the help they need – and quickly. They will probably be in a state of extreme distress and confusion. Without help, people may be at risk of causing harm to themselves and those around them (cases of injury to others are actually very rare). They often end up in police cells – completely inappropriately. They may even commit suicide – and all too often, I hear tragic cases of suicide after someone has repeatedly been unable to access mental …

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Norman Lamb MP writes…Francis, one year on

A year ago last week, Robert Francis QC published his report into the failings at Stafford Hospital, and set out his recommendations to ensure that those failings would not be repeated.  As a Liberal Democrat, I am committed to delivering better care, and ensuring that everyone is treated with dignity and respect when they come into contact with our health and care system. Today I want to report back myself on what we have achieved so far.

There are dedicated staff across the NHS and the care sector, who work tirelessly day after day to provide the best possible care for …

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Norman Lamb MP writes… Why I’ll be voting to ban smoking in cars carrying children

Later this evening, MPs will be given a vote on proposals to ban smoking in cars carrying children. It will be a free vote, and within each party there will be MPs who vote each way. If the proposal is approved, from next year it could become a criminal offence to smoke when there is a child in the car.

There would be no new police resource allocated to enforcing the ban proactively. But this would send a clear message out that smoking in cars with children is unacceptable, and I support the measure wholeheartedly.

Votes like this always raise questions about …

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#Timetotalk: Norman Lamb MP responds…

I have been really impressed by the moving personal contributions on Lib Dem Voice today setting people’s own experience of mental health. It reminded me powerfully why I am a Liberal Democrat.  As Holly Matthies wrote, tackling mental health stigma is fundamentally about freedom – freedom from poverty, ignorance, and conformity.

Time to talk dayMental health isn’t something that happens to other people.  1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem at some point during their life – and everyone will know someone close to them who is affected.  And we …

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Norman Lamb writes… Mental Health: our priorities for essential change

closing the gapSupport for those with mental health problems has come a long way since 2010. Rectifying the profound injustice in the priority given to physical health over mental health has been one of my highest priorities as Health Minister – as I know that it was too for Paul Burstow. When at least one in four people will experience a mental health problem at some point in their life, making sure they get the support they need to live independent and fulfilled lives is essential in delivering a stronger economy and a fairer society.

But there remains a very long way to go. People who rely on our mental health services – patients and carers – continue to experience unacceptable waits for services, and huge inconsistencies in the quality of provision. Some parts of our health and care system don’t do nearly enough to enable those with mental health conditions to live within their community, properly supported.

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Norman Lamb writes… managing offenders with mental illness

It is a really disturbing fact that 1 in 4 members of the prison population has a severe mental illness. Addressing this is one of the big social reforms which has not yet happened.

Far too often these conditions are diagnosed for the first time in prison. In many cases, their mental illness will have been a significant factor contributing to their criminal behaviour. If these people had been properly diagnosed when they first came into contact with police, and they had been provided with appropriate support and therapy, their offending actions might have been averted.

Identifying offenders with mental …

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Norman Lamb writes… A once-in-a-generation opportunity to fix our health and care system

In 1997 Tony Blair told the Labour Party conference “I don’t want brought up in a country where the only way pensioners can get long-term care is by selling their home.” And yet speaking to the Health Select Committee in 2010, in Labour’s final months in office, Andy Burnham said, “every member of the Cabinet believed social care to be an area that had not been properly reformed and was one of great unfairness”. In thirteen years of talk, and promises, Labour did nothing to fix our dysfunctional, and profoundly unfair, system of funding social care.

In …

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Norman Lamb MP writes…Have your say on dementia care

Back in 2008, when I was Liberal Democrat Shadow Health Secretary, I spoke out about poor diagnosis rates for dementia sufferers, saying that “the NHS must do more to ensure people are encouraged to seek early help and that they have access to care from their GP, specialist assessment and accurate diagnosis.” Dementia diagnosis rates across the country vary significantly – and although they are improving, they are still not good enough. And, while there is some excellent dementia care – there has also been much that is inadequate.

I could never have imagined then that – 5 years on – …

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Norman Lamb MP writes…My view on cigarette standardised packaging

Yesterday the Government announced that it is launching an independent review of the public health evidence on standardised packaging for cigarettes.

As a Liberal I will always defend an individual’s right to smoke when they can do so without this having an impact on those around them, but I have made clear in the past my personal view that we should introduce standardised packaging.

This is a product, after all, which kills something in the region of 100,000 people a year. Is it really that unreasonable to argue that, given this death-rate, we should be able to restrict, in all ways, the …

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Norman Lamb writes… How Liberal Democrats are promoting safety and openness in the NHS

nhs sign lrgAs a Liberal Democrat, my priority for the NHS is simple. I want patients to have the best possible care. When people are ill and vulnerable, they deserve safe and compassionate care provided by doctors and nurses with the best possible training and medical expertise. And people need to know that, when mistakes are made, doctors will be open with them – and that lessons will be learnt.

What happened at Mid Staffs Hospital was a shocking scandal. The stories of neglect sent shock waves across the country. This Government …

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