Our nation’s mental health is a clear and present danger

On Monday, Theresa May’s announcement about mental health came to precious little in money terms – a mere £15m of additional investment to be precise. This despite the fact that Norman Lamb and others have made it clear that extra money that was earmarked for mental health last year has in fact been used to prop up NHS trusts who are suffering from financial difficulties. Mental health is crying out for more money as Isabel Hardman eloquently writes about in the Telegraph today based on her own experience.

The statistics are clear. Research in 2014 found that one in ten people wait over a year just to get an assessment for a talking therapy, while four in ten wait more than three months. Two thirds told the We Need To Talk coalition that they had become more unwell while waiting, with one in six attempting suicide. In 2014, over 6,000 people died from suicide which is 16 per day. Nobody would be happy to wait three months for a broken leg to be treated or to have to travel 300 miles to see their children for a broken arm. Yet this is precisely the state of mental health in the UK today.

One of the key strategies of this government and its predecessor is its continued attempt to use diversion tactics every time the words NHS and crisis are mentioned in the same sentence. These tactics have included watering down the targets for non-emergency A&E wait times to the more cynical headlines about health tourism or foreign aid budgets being wasted.

Mental health remains the leading cause of work place absence in the UK. If we could really tackle the issues of depression and anxiety head on the economic payback for us would be enormous.

When it comes to mental health of our children we parents also have a role to play by being aware of the risks and issues of exposure to social media at a young age.  Some research has even shown that prohibiting the use of mobile phones in schools leads to academic improvements.

It is time for the Prime Minister to realise our nation’s mental health is in clear and present danger and to put her money where her mouth is. However our response to mental health issues needs to be wider – it should not be focused purely on GPs and pills, but a holistic approach to continued wellbeing including diet, exercise, relationships and fulfilment. In this aspect she is right that employers and schools have a bigger role to play too.

* Chris Key is dad of two girls, multilingual and internationalist. Lib Dem member in Twickenham who likes holding local council and MPs to account.

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  • Eddie Sammon 11th Jan '17 - 12:41pm

    Isabel Hardman’s article was fantastic. My experience has been different: I didn’t wait long for treatment, just a few weeks to go through a telephone screening and the have Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and it didn’t help me, but it would help others.

    This was maybe three years ago now, but as I said to the therapist at the time: doing exercises isn’t going to get rid of my bills and debts. So we need to recognise that mental health treatment is only one aspect of getting people better. Sometimes I worry that people are over-optimistic about what the NHS can achieve in this area.

  • Eddie Sammon 11th Jan '17 - 12:48pm

    PS, sorry, I’ve just seen: yes I totally agree that “our response to mental health issues needs to be wider – it should not be focused purely on GPs and pills”. This was my point above about things that therapy or pills can’t treat.

  • nigel hunter 11th Jan '17 - 12:53pm

    Where the Conservatives and UKIP are concerned they would privatise the NHS but they know this is a vote looser at the moment so they will cause it to implode through lack of concern and just drip feed the funds.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 11th Jan '17 - 2:32pm

    Isabel Hardman is a delight , and has been proof if needed , that the centre, centre left , and centre right , can be friendly and warm hearted , and get along , she is a journalist in liberal conservative circles after all !

    The now spoken about crisis , in mental health is just one of many disgraceful aspects of health care in Britain. Why every time someone with no axe to grind , who is absolutely no friend of the right wing ideology of laissez – faire , says something that shows our health service is not in any way the esteemed envy of the world , does someone compare it to America , the only other country in the developed world consistently worse !

    The answer is because we are wedded to the left , right polarised nonsense. As is the US.

    Most of the world that is developed and progressive and modern , does things differently , and from each other too. Canada , Holland , France , Italy , Germany , Australia, all have enlightened and non regressive attitudes to public services and are broadly liberal and social democratic or liberal conservative.

    Not one adopts the UK model or US model.

    Mental health is going to remain in this state unless we do something that is more radical than ya boo politics !

  • Perhaps the reason that health provision is so much better in some other European countries than in the U.K. is that they fund it differently, no country in the world has copied the U.K. model. Belgium, France and Germany. along with Australia and Canada, use some form of mutual insurance, often along side some type of swipe card which firstly proves their entitlement to treatment and secondly is a means of paying 50-75% of the cost which is then reimbursed.
    We need a full and frank discussion as to what we want the NHS to offer and how it should be funded, the current system is not sustainable, although at least Tim offers the sticking plaster of a 2% tax rise, I think most people who have any real knowledge of the current situation would accept that any funds raised by a 2% tax rise would be swallowed in one gulp. Either we keep the current funding system we will have to have even higher taxation than Tim is suggesting, borrow even more, or reduce what is on offer via the NHS. Alternatively we could look at some of the European models.
    High time we had that debate, we no longer have the best health service in the world, if we ever did, although the people who work in it are some of the most dedicated and committed you could ever meet, they do not have the resources they need, nor will they ever under the current system.

  • @ Tynan “some form of mutual insurance”,

    So how will that include the poor, the unemployed, the elderly retired ? Such a system takes no account of how to pay. Sounds suspiciously like the American system.

  • Simon Freeman 11th Jan '17 - 8:35pm

    My experience too was good. Sympathetic GPS who listened, then i got access to CBT after i arranged a visit to a counsellor at the Local IAPT service. The Computerised “Beating the Blues” sessions I had really helped. That plus taking a break and doing things I enjoy-and it has to be said medication for a while whilst I learned to look after and value myself again. Not everyone is as lucky as I was though. For some the problems are just too deeply ingrained. The delays some people face are unnaceptable. If 1 in 4 people every year suffer from some form of Mental Illness that is a problem of epidemic proportions. society needs to wise up to this, and employers can do more to help. Perhaps if we all tried to be nicer to each other?

    2% on Income Tax to put more money into the NHS is a good idea. How much would that raise?

    The various ideas about Insurance schemes don’t cut much ice with me. anyone working in the NHS will tell you how much extra bureacracy the Internal Market created. Most people don’t want to choose hospitals, they just want one near where they live!

  • Where the help exists it is very good, The most practical problems are long waiting list and cuts. Without good support people who need help can end up homeless and penniless because they are not really in a position to challenge inexpert, unsympathetic, arbitrary rulings. The wider problem is misconceptions and stigma deriving from the belief that mental health condition are simultaneously less real than obvious physical conditions and yet scary. I think this stems from very old philosophical concepts that separate the mind and the body.

  • Leekliberal 12th Jan '17 - 2:18pm

    A good post the key phrase being…… ‘ extra money that was earmarked for mental health last year has in fact been used to prop up NHS trusts who are suffering from financial difficulties.’ As stated the problem is about visibility where physical is always more obvious than mental illness. There is no point in lobbying the Government for more resources for mental illness if the local Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) up and down the country, under heavy lobbying pressures, divert the money away to deal with the more ‘sexy’ and evident physical illness issues. Money intended by the Government for mental illness MUST be ‘ring-fenced’ and spent for that purpose. Norman Lamb needs to continue to plug this aspect with ever increasing energy: The large number of electors who have to deal day-to-day with mental health issues would be extremely grateful to the Lib Dems if we could be seen to have played a major part in righting this wrong!

  • Leek Liberal’s point is an excellent one. I know Norman will not let this issue of ring-fencing mental health support drop.

  • David Raw; It amazes me how discussion about any different funding system for the NHS always leads to comments about the American system, none of those countries have anything close to the American system. Belgium is often cited as having one of the best systems in Europe if not the world, if you want to know how they work the information is easily available on line. When did the current funding system become inviolate?
    What happened to being able to realise that something that once worked might need major overhaul, not simply loads more money. There is perhaps a reason why no other country has a system like ours?
    If you are going to commit to the current system then even its greatest fans would accept that it needs some combination of -:
    More funding via tax increase, almost certainly more than the 2% that Tim suggests.
    More funding via borrowing.
    A review and reduction of the core treatments offered free at the point of use by the NHS.
    To be fair, Tim does argue for a 2% tax rise, which I would guess could be sold successfully to the electorate if there was a guarantee that the money raised would be spent on the NHS, or social care, however he has no long term plan for the sustainability of the NHS in its current form, nor unfortunately does any other party.
    As for what happens to the unemployed etc. any system can have measures built in to protect the vulnerable if the political will to do so exists.

  • “A review and reduction of the core treatments offered free at the point of use by the NHS”.

    Such as ?

  • @ Tynan Another Blair legacy……. and not from 1948.

    For a start I’d have no hesitation in drafting compulsory purchase legislation to stop this sort of nonsense. viz. ROYAL INFIRMARY EDINBURGH. Edinburgh Evening News, 19 July 2010.

    We’ll pay £1.2bn for PFI hospital but NEVER own it HEALTH chiefs were today facing demands for an inquiry after it emerged the NHS will have to pay a total of £1.26 billion for the privately built Edinburgh Royal Infirmary – and still not own it. An Evening News investigation has discovered that while other hospitals built under private finance initiatives (PFI) eventually transfer to NHS ownership, the Little France site will not. It means that by 2028, NHS Lothian will have effectively paid for the hospital seven times over but it will remain the property of private operator Consort.

    The revelation has prompted fury from unions and politicians, who said it made a mockery of an agreement that was already a bad deal for the taxpayer. Tom Waterson, Unison’s Lothian branch chairman, said: “Can you imagine taking a mortgage out, making huge monthly payments, and then finding at the end you don’t own the place? “We had concerns about this contract from the start. Consort could even evict NHS Lothian at the end of it if they wanted.” NHS Lothian is tied to a 50 million-a-year contract with Consort to run and maintain the hospital which expires in 2028. At that stage, health chiefs will have to negotiate a price with Consort to buy the hospital, extend the lease by another 25 years, or walk away, leaving the hospital and its contents to the firm. To make matters worse, the hospital has dropped nearly £ 20m in value since it opened 2002, down to 170m. Experts have also pointed out that it may halve in value by 2028, given it was only ever estimated to have a 45-year lifespan.

  • Firstly I accept that any measure to remove various treatment/s from the NHS would be unpopular with those people who might need / want said treatment. However there are clinical ways of measuring cost / benefit, and clinical effectiveness, I would suggest that this is where the decision needs to start in the area of non essential treatments.
    If you want me to give an example or two so people can shout at me ( and I do get that feeling) then I.V.F, and non reconstructive plastic surgery are two classic examples that are often discussed in clinical commissioning meetings. I accept that these in themselves would not save huge amounts of cash, but they would save some, as I said there are already treatment effectiveness matrices in existence that are currently used to make decisions as to whether various treatments should be funded.
    All I am suggesting is we look seriously at alternative funding for non-essential treatments, I am not expecting it will be popular with those who wish to undergo such treatments, neither will significant increases in taxation and / or borrowing.
    Dentistry and eye testing used to be free at point of use now they aren’t ( except Scotland ) the decision was not popular but I don’t hear any party campaigning to reverse it, because it would cost too much to dos so.
    At least we can all agree that the current system is not working well.

  • David, Not sure how your last post applies to any comment by me? I am certainly no fan of Blair or PFI projects, having worked in a health care centre that cost £6,000,000 to build has 6 floors and a rental cost of £250,000 per floor per year and which will never be owned by the state, nice work if you can get it. Unfortunately for the owner the building is now half empty as none of the public health providers can afford the rent. Current occupants being the Group 4 carrying out disability checks, you couldn’t write it!
    Anyway nice arguing with you got to go.

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