Paul Burstow MP writes…We must transform mental health services for young people #timetotalk

Time to talk 2015From day one of this government, Lib Dems have prioritised mental health, so long neglected and overlooked by previous governments. In 2011, I published the Coalition Government’s mental health strategy, No Health Without Mental Health. Four years on, that strategy has been translated into action by a succession of initiatives. Investing in expanding the adult talking therapies (IAPT) programme, building from scratch a children’s IAPT programme, putting in place liaison and diversion services investing in liaison psychiatry, the first ever waiting time standards for mental health and Nick’s announcement of an ambition for zero-suicides across the NHS.

Achieving parity of esteem is never going to be a quick win, we are making real progress and helping to set the agenda for any future government. Thanks to the Lib Dems there is now a challenge on mental health, and, with the Children and Adolescent Mental Health Task Force established by Norman Lamb reporting in March, there is an opportunity to establish a roadmap for real reform for children and young people in the next parliament.

When I was chairing the CentreForum Commission on mental health, it quickly became clear that young people and children should become a key focus of our work. When nearly one in ten young people suffer from mental illness but only one in four receive any support or treatment through our current health care system, the case for change is crystal clear.

One simple question was central to our work: What do we already know? That is why we asked the Centre for Mental Health to pull together the most comprehensive answer so far. It offers a comprehensive stock-take of the evidence on what works. The simple message from the evidence is we already know enough to take actions to transform the state of children and young people’s mental health.

However, this report also highlights a worrying reality. For children and adolescents, diagnosable mental health conditions often go unrecognised and untreated. It is even more frustrating to see the missing access to treatments, when the intervention programmes we need deliver both significant improvement and excellent value for money. For every £1 invested, we could expect £13 in return, clearing the doubts about the feasibility of providing better mental health care for the young people. Although NHS is one of the best health care systems in the world, it should be noted that mental health services have been much neglected, especially for the young. Failing to get this right for them, then we may see another generation of children growing up without the right support and opportunity to fulfil their potential.

Young people with mental illness desperately need help and support to recover and achieve their potential. Just as it was with the Children and Young People IAPT programme I launched in 2011, it is crucial that the voice of children and young people is heard. Services can only become effective when the design and feedback mechanisms centre on the people who need them. The CAMHS taskforce will be reporting in the coming months and must set out an evidence based roadmap for change.

Having clear plans for the transformation of CAMHS services is vital, but it is every bit as important it is complemented by relentless pressure for any future government to act on them with urgency.  We are the only party to commit to additional funding to mental health services, and more funding for CAMHS. The CAMHS taskforce must offer politicians a clear set of goals, a route map for reforming, so that more children are able to make full use of the opportunities that education has to offer; more people are able to work and contribute; and more people living happier, healthier and more fulfilled lives.

* Paul Burstow is Liberal Democrat candidate for Sutton and Cheam and was the MP until the dissolution of Parliament on 30th March.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.

One Comment

  • Eddie Sammon 6th Feb '15 - 10:21am

    Paul, you sound like a credit to parliament with your work in this area. I get confused with the working relationship between you and Norman Lamb and I notice you were a minister of health until 2012 but not anymore.

    However we also need to be aware that some people seem unhappy with the government’s performance in mental health services – people say on Twitter that cuts have been made. This is not my area of expertise, but we need to rebuke such claims if they are not true.


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