Ben Bradshaw

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My Speech on Mental Health

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab): I am sorry to have to say, not for the first time in this House over the last few years, that in spite of all the warm reassurances from the Government that our mental health services are getting better, the experience of my constituents as users of the service, people who work in the service and those who manage the service is completely different.

It is extremely welcome that mental health has risen up the political agenda in recent years. I pay tribute to the many people outside and inside this House who, by speaking of their own experiences, have helped to achieve that. However, the higher public profile has not yet translated into delivery on the ground. In my area, the public are still experiencing services being cut and are still having to wait an unacceptably long time for talking therapies and other treatments.

In spite of the repeated warnings about the scandal of people being sent out of area in recent years and the assurances we have received, there was a 23% increase in the number of patients sent out of area last year, taking it up to more than 500. In Devon, which is one of the worst performing parts of the country, 45 patients were forced miles away from their friends and families.

I recently experienced that problem for myself, when the bright and previously happy teenage daughter of a close friend of the family had a crisis. While on the waiting list to receive treatment, her crisis escalated rapidly and she had to be admitted. There were no suitable beds at all in London, where she and her family live. She was first sent to Southampton, only for the unit there to be deemed unsuitable. She was then sent to Manchester.

Paula Sherriff: In my area of Kirklees, some children and adolescents wait up to two years for out-patient talking therapies. Does my right hon. Friend agree that that is appalling and completely unacceptable? Does he also agree that early intervention is very important to ensure that people do not suffer too much in later life?

Mr Bradshaw: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. As she clearly articulates, the picture on the ground is very different from the one that is so often painted by the Government.

The House may remember a case that caused headlines a couple of years ago when I raised it in another debate. A 16-year-old girl in Devon was kept in a police cell for two nights because no bed could be found for her anywhere in the country. Her case is not unusual. As we have heard in this debate, more than 6,000 people with mental illnesses were held in police cells last year.

Marie Rimmer: Does my right hon. Friend agree that the provision of tier 4 CAMHS beds is a national commissioning issue? Those beds are commissioned by NHS England, not by the CCGs. I think that that is a problem. The Government need to focus on the nationally commissioned beds. Many young people who have eating disorders get to the stage where they need such beds.

Mr Bradshaw: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I hope that the Minister heard her intervention, because I will leave that bit out of my speech. I was going to raise the ongoing problem of the interface between mental health services for young people and adolescents and those for adults. A lot of people are falling through the gap.

There has been a lot of talk, including from the Government, about parity of esteem, but there is scant evidence of it on the ground at a local level. I ask the Minister to explain when he responds to the debate why, if the Government are serious about parity of esteem, NHS England has removed it from this year’s NHS mandate. That is the important document that the NHS publishes every year to tell local health services what they have to deliver. Why has parity of esteem been removed?

Why are the Government cutting so drastically the funding for public health, which delivers many preventive services, such as alcohol and drug treatments and psychological support for young people in schools, that prevent people from getting ill in the first place, saving money and lives.

As we have heard, after years of falling, the rate of male suicide is on the increase again. Suicide is the main cause of avoidable death among young males.

Mrs Madeleine Moon (Bridgend) (Lab): Would my right hon. Friend like to attend a meeting held by the all-party parliamentary group on suicide and self-harm prevention and the all-party mental health group, at which Dr Robert Colgate will address us on the subject of triaging? By that process, mental health nurses, social workers and GPs can triage a patient for whom they cannot get an immediate appointment and enable appropriate care plans to be put in place while they wait for the next-stage appointment. The meeting is on 29 January, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will join us.

Mr Bradshaw: I am sure that hon. Members will be grateful for that public invitation in spite of the pressure on their diaries from numerous all-party parliamentary groups.

Yesterday, the Health Select Committee was told that, whereas the vast majority of acute hospital trusts were expecting to run deficits this year—a big increase— the figure for mental health trusts was much lower. We might think that that is a good thing, but the reason that acute trusts are running such big deficits is that they are giving priority to ensuring safe care. So, if far fewer mental health trusts are running deficits, is that because they are simply cutting services? I should be grateful to hear the Minister’s view on the difference between the deficits being run by mental health trusts and those run being by general acute hospital trusts.

I shall close now, because many people want to speak in the debate. There is probably no one here or outside the House who has not been affected, or whose family has not been affected, by mental illness. We have been hearing warm words from the Government for several years about how things will improve. Indeed, we have heard today that they are improving, but that is not the experience of people on the ground. So I hope that, when the Minister responds, he will focus on action and delivery and not just on words.

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