Nick Clegg on the “great liberal cause” to boost mental health care: “I want this smack bang on the front page of our next manifesto”

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Nick clegg rally glasgow 2014Nick Clegg will announce a new Coalition Government policy in his leader’s speech to the Glasgow conference today – putting mental health provision on a par with physical health by announcing waiting time targets for people with mental health problems in England for the first time.

He’s expected to say later that “Mental health conditions are one of the last remaining taboos in our society, and yet they will affect one in four people” and to make three commitments:

  • “if you are waiting for talking therapies to help with your depression, you will be seen within six weeks – 18 weeks at an absolute maximum – just as if you are waiting for an operation on your hip”
  • “if you are young person experiencing psychosis for the first, you will be seen within two weeks, something we are going to roll out across the country – just as if you suspect you have cancer”
  • “if you are having a breakdown, if you are thinking of harming yourself, for any emergency which takes you to A&E, you’ll get the help you need – just as if you had gone to hospital with chest pains or following an accident.”
  • Here’s BBC Health Correspondent Nick Triggle’s assessment:

    “… the word from the Department of Health is that these targets are very much a starting point. And as mental health is an area of the NHS that has not had such scrutiny before, the sector seems willing to give ministers the benefit of the doubt. The hope of many involved in providing such services is that the attention the targets will bring will lead to more money and resources being ploughed into care.”

    Indeed, a chunk of the new NHS cash that was announced by the party last weekend would be dedicated towards improved mental health-care: “I want this smack bang on the front page of our next manifesto,” Nick will say: “This is a great liberal cause. Let’s be the first political party to give mental health the status it deserves.”

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    11 Comments

    • John Roffey 8th Oct '14 - 10:33am

      “And the Health Foundation reiterated that in 2015/16 alone the NHS will have a hole in its finances to the sum of £2bn, with a £30bn shortfall by 2020. – See more at: http://blogs.channel4.com/victoria-macdonald-on-health-and-social-care/tory-pledge-pour-millions-nhs/2447#sthash.z2gGvYcC.dpuf

    • Nick T Nick Thornsby 8th Oct '14 - 10:56am

      2010 manifesto, page 40: “doctors and nurses spend too much time trying to meet government targets”.

    • @Nick Thornsby

      “2010 manifesto, page 40: “doctors and nurses spend too much time trying to meet government targets””

      Any chance your 2010 manifesto could have been wrong on this issue and is now correcting it for the 2015 manifesto.

      Something drastically needs to happen for patients with mental health because at present there is NO legislation on how long people suffering with mental health disorders can wait for treatment.
      Some people wait a year just to get an assessment then have to wait many months more for treatment to begin.

      It’s not on, it’s not acceptable, it’s got to change

    • I agree with the thrust of this wholeheartedly, and I think it would cost a bit more long term, to provide services in the timeframes specified, but would save money long-term as it would hopefully bring positive outcomes faster. Mental health issues often domino in society, one person can trigger another and limiting that tier of interaction would nearly certainly produce results.

      I don’t think it’s a policy that will influence many votes but it sounds right; can’t see how he’ll pay for it though.

    • Whoops, meant to be “cost a bit more short term”.

    • Stephen Campbell 8th Oct '14 - 12:22pm

      As someone who has suffered mental health problems off and on throughout my life, I welcome this news in principle. You would not have to wait so long to be seen if you had a suspected hart problem. Yet if you have major depressive disorder, for example, you often have to wait at least six months, often longer, just to be seen while all the GP can do is give you pills (and I believe many, if not most medications for depression, especially SSRIs, do more harm than good). Suicide is the leading cause of men under the age of 35 in the UK.

      Sadly, I do not trust this party to deliver on this and I trust Clegg’s ability/commitment to deliver this even less. The way the coalition has treated many people with mental health problems, especially those of us on the lower end of the income scale, has not been compassionate at all. Those with mental health problems who cannot work have been subjected to the degrading and cruel ATOS/DWP Work Capability Assessment, the Bedroom Tax and constant attacks on us by the Tories and their media (scroungers, “fake disabled”) which the Liberal Democrats have done little to counter. The actions of this government have made the mental health of many already vulnerable people even worse.

      I’m not holding my breath on this. I desperately want this to happen, but I don’t trust Clegg or the Lib Dems to deliver it, because you’ve broken the trust of myself and many, many others several times over the course of this coalition government.

    • @Stephen Campbell

      I do understand where you coming from and I share your reservations, but I am prepared to wait and see the details.

      I hope Nick Clegg is going to give substantial details on how this is going to work, rather than just soundbites.

      For example when they say someone with mental health will be seen within 6-18 weeks. I want to know if that is the time scale in which you must be “assessed” by the mental health access team, or does it mean you will start actual therapy within 6-18 weeks.
      The devil is always in the detail and they are things that I am looking out for. Because people like you and me know first hand that after getting an assessment with mental access team you can still wait months, sometimes over 12 months for therapy to even begin.

      I am prepared to sit on the fence at the moment and await to see what happens.

    • Stephen Campbell 8th Oct '14 - 1:07pm

      @matt:

      I hear what you’re saying and I’m going to do my best to be optimistic about this. But it seems every time we’re promised action on mental health, the results are always underwhelming and things then slowly go back to where they were before – a service which treats mental health as somehow “less important”. New Labour promised us loads of improvement on mental health. And for a couple of years where I live I did notice an improvement, albeit slight and really only in terms of waiting times. Sadly over the past 6 or so years waiting times between appointments have steadily increased. I’ve been waiting well over a year for more talking therapy and last time I saw my psychiatrist she had no idea when my appointment would finally come up. And I have indeed noticed a big change in the NHS over the past 5 years or so, and not for the better. Everyone always seems incredibly stressed, several people I knew who used to work in the NHS have left, either their jobs have been “outsourced” to private companies or they could not handle the stress and impossible demands made on them. The NHS “reforms” have certainly not helped things and the critics’ warning has come true: care is more fragmented, NHS workers are being asked to do much more for virtually the same pay, etc.

      The sad fact is that I don’t trust any of the three main parties with the NHS.

    • From Stephen Tall’s Blog — news of the “secret” leadership contest —

      …”So they don’t speak it aloud. But — quietly, gently, cautiously — hopefuls are beginning to limber up. Tim Farron on the party’s liberal-left, Jeremy Browne on the party’s liberal-right. The cabinet ministers (Alistair Carmichael, Danny Alexander) hoping their red-box gravitas will mean they pass the “Does this guy look like a future Deputy Prime Minister?” test. And a handful of MPs, including ministers like Norman Lamb and Jo Swinson (if she retains her marginal seat), who could emerge through the middle as the compromise candidate – See more at: http://stephentall.org/2014/10/08/5-thoughts-from-lib-dem-conference/#sthash.vnNenGmN.dpuf

    • oK got a couple of questions, Would be great if Norman Lamb could come here and explain somethings to us on this policy, or someone else within the party who have the answers.

      1)Am I right in thinking that the announcement Nick Clegg made this morning “This morning I announced that next year, for the first time ever, we will introduce national waiting times for patients with mental health conditions.” “So if you are waiting for talking therapies to help with your depression, you will be seen within six weeks – 18 weeks at an absolute maximum – just as if you are waiting for an operation on your hip.”
      This is the current Governments policy already agreed to be introduced by the coalition?

      2) Does the 6-18 weeks mean you will be assessed and treated for depressive disorders? or is this the time you will have to wait to be assessed by the mental health access team and then placed on the adult services waiting list for treatment?

      3)”These are big, big changes. And in Government again the Liberal Democrats will commit to completing this overhaul of our mental health services – ending the discrimination against mental health for good. And while I know not everyone in the party is going to agree, I can tell you now: I want this smack bang on the front page of our next manifesto.”
      If the answer to question 1 is that this is the current coalitions government policy being introduced next year. What exactly is it that will be going on the Liberal Democrats Manifesto? , How much further are Liberal Democrats going to go over what has already been announced?

      These are really important questions for hundreds of thousands of people who suffer from mental heath disorders

    • I have written to some extent on Mental Health issues and have heard testimonies from others and I relate my own. Before anyone criticises us on the coalitions record on the NHS – let us ask what was Labour’s stance on the issue of Mental Health during their 13 years? I can say it was a very poor relation in the ‘disease burden’ on the NHS.
      These policy targets are aspirations that are Liberal Democrat – not Tory not Labour – we can only push hard in the Department for Health for policy implementation, and I know personally that Norman Lamb is really working hard on this issue.
      It is not often I find something positive to say about us, I am a coalition denier, one this issue I am proud to be a Lib Dem. The work done by Paul Burstow and Norman along with Tim Farron, has been very encouraging.
      This is an ambitious task; it will take time – for all the negative comments, I leave with this quote I have just received from Paul Farmer (CEO Mind)

      “Today’s announcement is a welcome first step and acknowledges the unfair imbalance that has long existed between physical and mental health services. We now need to see these important ambitions translate into tangible improvements for everyone trying to access the help they need. If you want to continue to fight for better mental health for everyone….”

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