Now, Theresa, you weren’t really the driving force behind mental health crisis care improvements, now, were you?

So, Theresa May gave an interview to Sky’s Sophy Ridge today in which she gave the biggest signal yet that leaving the single market is very much on the agenda.

In time honoured tradition, there’s a nice petition you can sign if you agree with Tim Farron that “reckless plans to leave the Single Market would make us all poorer.”

But it’s something else she said in her interview that grabbed my attention. She had moved from saying not much actually on Brexit to a very small amount on the NHS to talking about her speech tomorrow. Apparently mental health is a priority of hers. Who knew? The Prime Minister said:

If I can give you an example of something I have already done, when I was in the Home Office one of the issues that concerned me was people in mental health crisis being taken to a police cell as a place of last resort.  It wasn’t good for them, it wasn’t good for the police.  Actually we’ve changed that and we’ve seen the number for whom that happens coming down by 80% and that was a small sum of money that the NHS has been able to put in in order to ensure that there are more, for example more and different places of safety for people …

“I have already done.” Really?

Well, let’s look at an unbiased source, shall we? The Government website which announced this initiative back in 2014 didn’t mention Theresa May anywhere. The main names were Liberal Democrat ministers Nick Clegg and Norman Lamb. Yes, there was Home Office involvement, but it was Lamb who had done all the work bringing it together across government. He was the driving force behind all the mental health measures introduced by the Coalition Government.

At the time, Norman Lamb wrote for this site about what he had managed to achieve.  Here’s a reminder of what he said:

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 health crisis support.

This isn’t just an issue for the NHS. Often people in mental health crisis will initially come into contact with the police, or other public services. It is essential that, however or wherever people in need of urgent support are discovered, there is an effective and consistent response. I want to build a fairer society in which people with acute mental health problems are given te medical support they need – not locked up in police custody.

Earlier this week, I announced (in conjunction with my colleague at the Home Office) a Concordat for Crisis Mental Health Care. More than twenty national organisations have signed up to the Concordat – including the Association of Chief Police Officers. As a Liberal Democrat, I want to see better care across our health and care system. The Concordat sets out the standards of care people should expect if they suffer a mental health crisis, specifying how emergency services ought to respond. Full details of the document are available here.

A key part of this plan is information sharing. Only this morning, I learned about a constituency case in which someone was arrested by the police after experiencing a very serious mental health crisis – and the police did not discover that they had mental health problems, and did not make an appropriate referral until their relatives got in touch hours later. The Concordat sets out an expectation that services will share essential “need to know” information to help deliver better, more personalised care.

The Concordat also sets out timescales for responding to mental health crisis – so, for example, police officers know how long they will have to wait for a response from health and care workers. And we are challenging local areas to make sure that there are adequate health-based “places of safety” in every part of the country, as well as crisis mental health beds for when they are needed. I will continue to push over the coming weeks to ensure that local health commissioners reflect their obligation to promote equality for mental health in the way they set next year’s budgets.

At its heart, today’s announcement is about ensuring parity of esteem – equality – for mental health. When someone suffers from a physical health crisis, there is a clear expectation that Accident and Emergency wards, Ambulance Services, and other organisations will be available to respond and that effective care will be provided. But with mental health conditions, all too often that simply isn’t the case. I am absolutely determined that there must be effective crisis mental health support available when it is needed. The Concordat represents a shared commitment across our public services to address that imbalance, and ensure better care across the system to make a very real and positive difference to people’s lives.

If Theresa May had been so interested in mental health, she might have done more to make the immigration system more humane for people to navigate. Even relatively straightforward cases could be incredibly stressful, as Holly Matthies wrote here.  That was in her power to do for six years and she didn’t change things.

This is a clear case of victors re-writing history. It’s important that we don’t allow our positive contributions on these vital issues to be airbrushed out.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • nigel hunter 8th Jan '17 - 9:58pm

    Let,s face it. For the Tories to give any credit to Lib Dem’s will stick in their throats!

  • Pete Dollimore 9th Jan '17 - 9:26am

    Now today we see Theresa May as the BBC’s lead news story “Theresa May promises mental health care overhaul”.

    Could there be any more cynical actions by our unelected Prime Minister? And it’s all for someone else to do – training for teachers and online self-checking. What precisely is one supposed to do if the self0check suggests action needed – where’s the money to pay for that?

    Let’s fight back and ensure the real champion for those with mental health ailments is at the forefront – Normal Lamb step forward please.

  • nigel hunter 9th Jan '17 - 9:35am

    I agree completely . Norman Lamb,s efforts must be taken to widely publish his efforts.Facebook would be a good start.

  • The crisis in mental health is much more serious and important than which politician can claim the credit. I’m more interested in outcomes.

    May will be judged in due course…………… but I’m not expecting anything substantial.

    Her ‘Shared Society’ follows on from Thatcher’s ‘No such thing as Society’ and Cameron’s ‘The Great Society’ shows the Tories all over the place. One thing you can be sure of is that some shares will be bigger than others.

  • I’m sure Norman won’t care who is getting the credit as long as those who were put in these conditions no longer are. However, that’s not quite good enough for me when you consider how little May or the Conservatives did and how Cameron has already tried to build up his role in marriage equality too.

  • Such as shame that even if choosing to be critical some people can’t even welcome what is being proposed.
    Pete, can there be anything more cynical than using the phrase ‘ unelected Prime Minister ‘
    I am assuming you are as aware as most people who view this site that with our electoral system we do not elect the Prime Minister, we elect the constituency M.P. and the leader of the party with the most M.P.’s is asked to form the government, so to continue to roll out the unelected Prime Minister might be a good rallying cry for some, but is both incorrect and a lazy argument.
    I would have thought that teachers being trained to recognise early signs of mental illness in young people could only be a good thing? Certainly many other professions including my own have received training for mental health first aid with the aim that early recognition can result in early intervention and often prevent the need for long term secondary or tertiary treatment. I also note that none of the other elements of her plan for mental health services have been mentioned.
    This reminds me of a gay liberal friend of mine, who even though he is pleased that there is now equal rights to marriage, to this day refuses to give Cameron any credit for introducing the legislation. Just sometimes a party you don’t generally agree with may introduce something that is worth welcoming, we don’t always have to be so rabidly tribal, do we?

  • Sincere thanks to Norman Lamb MP for his Mental Health support. I’m sure the Lib Dems fought hard for reforms whilst in Coalition it being a sad fact that in 6yrs Mental Health beds & services reduced some 40% with specialist therapies for example for Eating Disorders Anorexia/Bulimia no longer commissioned by NHS England so only those able to pay Private get appropriate treatment. There is much suffering & unnecessary Deaths.
    MP’s with any Duty of Care must unite to fight…it is too late for so many..David Burr, Sussex, UK.

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