‘Taking action to improve mental health services essential’ - Doncaster North MP and Labour leader Ed Miliband

MP Ed Miliband
MP Ed Miliband

Taking action to improve mental health is essential if we are to thrive as a nation and ensure the NHS remains sustainable.

The approaches proposed in the report by Stephen O’ Brien’s independent Mental Health Taskforce – prevention, early intervention and better support – are key to achieving that.

It is an excellent road map for change as we draw up our programme for action. This Government’s failure and false economies on mental health need to be replaced with smart investments that will save money and put our NHS on a sustainable footing so it can meet the challenges of the 21st Century as well as it did the last.

The report highlights how half of all hospital in-patients have a mental health condition, rising numbers of young people are needing serious mental health support, and unaddressed mental health problems are costing the NHS billions each year in terms of worse physical health.

Labour’s 10-year plan for the NHS will contain key measures to integrate mental and physical health provision with social care to ensure problems get identified and addressed as early as possible.

These include ensuring that the training of all NHS staff includes mental health so problems get spotted. At the same time people with complex physical and mental health conditions will be given a single point of contact for all of their care.

The report highlights that just six per cent of the mental health budget is spent on children, even though three quarters of adult mental illness begins before the age of 18.

It cannot be right that when three quarters of adult mental illness begins in childhood, children’s mental health services get just six per cent of the mental health budget – nor that these vital services have been stripped back in recent years while £3bn has been wasted on an NHS reorganisation.

Labour will work to reverse the damage suffered by child mental health services under this Government. And we will set an ambition that the proportion of the mental health budget spent on children will rise as we make smart investments to improve mental health in childhood, in the process lessening some of the demand on mental health services when young people turn into adults.

In future all teachers should have training in child mental health so they are equipped to identify, support and refer children with mental health problems. Around 10 per cent of children at any one time have a diagnosable mental health problem – that’s three in every classroom. Yet of these, almost three quarters get no help. That has to change and under Labour it will. I want to ensure that any child who is struggling gets the help and support they need.