Calling for equality for mental health

News item posted: 19 June 2017

Turning Point’s Chief Executive, Lord Victor Adebowale CBE, is one of many prominent figures who has signed a letter calling for greater equality for mental health prior to the government’s Spending Review. 

EQUALITY FOR MENTAL HEALTH

‘We, the undersigned, have joined together to mount a cross-party, cross-society campaign aimed at persuading the Government to help reduce the suffering of those with mental ill health by increasing investment into the provision of mental health services. 

As ministers make final decisions on the Spending Review, we urge them to treat mental health equally with physical health. We ask for the same right to timely access to evidence based treatment as those with physical health problems.

We accept, and urge ministers to accept, that this will require additional investment in mental health services. But we are strongly persuaded that sustained investment in mental health services will lead to significant returns for the Exchequer, both by reducing the burden on the NHS through the improved wellbeing of our citizens, and by helping people to stay in, or get back into work.

We note the many comments from ministers and opinion formers acknowledging the huge cost of mental ill health not just to individuals and their families, including veterans of our armed forces, but to the economy as a whole. Some estimates put this cost as high as £100bn a year, spent on visits to A&E, lost jobs, unemployment benefits, homelessness support, police time and even prison places.

So the economic argument for a new approach is clear. And so is the human and moral argument. Because ministers have also accepted that whatever improvements in attitude may have been made in British society, with a greater understanding and awareness of mental ill health, those who experience it still do not get a fair deal from our health services. In effect, they suffer discrimination in our publicly funded NHS. This must be addressed.

To highlight just TEN of the many concerns we have in this area -

1) People with mental health problems do not enjoy the same access to services and to treatment as those with physical health problems. 75% of children and young people experiencing a mental health problem are thought to not access any treatment. And only 15 per cent of people who might benefit from talking therapies are actually getting such treatment.

2) Until this April there were no maximum waiting times for treatment for mental ill health, and we urge the government to use the Spending Review to show how these will be implemented and extended to cover all ages and all mental health services. 

3) The financial incentives in the NHS discriminate against mental health. As a result, whenever resources are under pressure, mental health is the first to lose out.

4) Too many mentally ill people are being shunted around the country in search of a bed - – and in some cases children are being admitted to adult wards due to shortages - a practice which would never be tolerated in physical health. 

5) Too few people who lose their jobs are having the mental health impact of unemployment taken into account, and so lack treatment that might help get them back into work.

6) Too many children and adults are still ending up in police cells rather than hospital when going through a mental health crisis.

7) Too many people are inappropriately in prison essentially because they suffer mental ill health or have a learning disability or autism.

8) We remain deeply concerned that people with long-term mental health conditions live on average 20 years less than the general population.

9) It is very troubling that certain ethnic groups, particularly African-Caribbean and African - are over-represented in acute mental health services and locked and secure services. People from these backgrounds face more frequent use of coercion, suffer more use of physical restraint, end up in contact with the police more often than others and have less access to talking therapies.

10) Vital research to gain a better understanding of mental illness and to establish the most effective treatments is compromised by inadequate funding. Whilst mental ill health accounts for around 23% of the overall disease burden, it only receives about 5% of research funding. 

We acknowledge that progress in awareness and understanding has been made. But this is not being matched by the levels of investment in an area which affects virtually every family in the country. We urge the government to seize the opportunity to end this historic injustice and commit the investment that will lead to an economically, and socially, stronger Britain.’ 

Signatories include Norman Lamb MP, Alastair Campbell, Andrew Mitchell MP and Ruby Wax.

For a full list of supporters and more details visit www.Equality4MentalHealth.uk