Mental Health

I agree that tackling poor mental health in the UK must be a priority and Ministers have legislated to ensure it is treated with the same importance as physical health. Progress is being made with more Government investment in mental health than ever before and an estimated 1,400 more people accessing mental health services every day compared to 2010 – up 40 per cent, as well as around 750,000 more people accessing talking therapies since 2009/10.

In February 2016, an independent Mental Health Taskforce published a new national strategy, setting out an ambitious vision for mental health services.

To make these recommendations a reality, the Government will spend an additional £1 billion on mental health by 2020-21 to improve access to services so that people receive the right care in the right place when they need it most. This includes increasing the number of people completing talking therapies by 600,000 per year (an increase of two thirds), and helping 20,000 more people to find or stay in work through individual placement support and talking therapies.

The Government has also introduced the first-ever mental health access and waiting time standards to ensure that 75 per cent of people referred for talking therapies to treat common mental health problems such as depression and anxiety start their treatment within 6 weeks, and 95 per cent within 18 weeks. These targets have been met and the latest data shows that in May 2016, 84 per cent of people waited less than 6 weeks and 97 per cent of people waited less than 18 weeks.

New Mothers 

As you suggest, it is vitally important that women have access to the right care during pregnancy and in the first postnatal year. I have helped ensure that Ministers are aware of the National Childbirth Trust’s ‘Hidden Half’ campaign on this important issue.

Improving perinatal mental health services during pregnancy and in the first postnatal year should be prioritised. I am told that the Department for Health is investing £365 million over five years in perinatal mental health services. NHS England is leading a transformation programme to ensure that, by 2020-21, at least 30,000 more women each year are able to access evidence-based specialist mental health care during the perinatal period. Where possible, the transformation programme aims to improve prevention of perinatal mental illness, including through earlier diagnosis and intervention, support for recovery and reducing avoidable harm.

Investment by NHS England in multidisciplinary perinatal mental health clinical networks, which include GPs, will also help drive change. I hope that by working together through these networks, health practitioners can ensure women at risk of perinatal mental health problems are identified at an earlier stage and can receive better, more coordinated care.

Mental Health in Schools

The mental health and wellbeing of our children is fundamental to ensuring that they are able reap the full benefits of their education and can enjoy their childhood to the fullest. Half of all mental health problems in the UK start by the age of 14. At such a young age, mental health issues can have a lifelong impact and can potentially affect school performance. It is therefore incredibly important that children and young people are provided with the help and support they need to grow up feeling confident about themselves and their future.

Tackling mental health, especially amongst the young, was a particular priority for me during my time working as Minister for Health. I was very proud of my work together with many of my colleagues, funding the “Time to Change” campaign which raised in the region of £16 million between 2011 and 2015. This programme worked to support and empower people to discuss their mental health problems and to tackle the discrimination that many of them faced. Within this programme was a tailored sub-programme specifically designed to help children and young people deal with mental health problems.

I am encouraged that the Prime Minister is seeking to fully address the issue and has announced a comprehensive package of measures to transform support in schools, workplaces and communities. These proposals include an additional £1.4 billion on mental health support for young people by 2020-21.

I know how important counselling services are in schools. The Future in Mind report is being implemented to expand access to counselling in schools. This will see all areas in England draw up plans for the greater integration between mental health specialists, GPs and schools. Recent data suggest that 62 per cent of schools offer counselling services; I am encouraged to say that this figure continues to increase over time, and more pupils are able to gain access to effective mental support. I also welcome that every secondary school in the country is to be offered free Mental Health First Aid training. This will enable staff to better spot the signs of mental health problems that young people may face. By 2020 it is expected that every secondary school will have one Mental Health First Aid trained member of staff.

Mental Health Children and Young People 

I am encouraged by the continued commitment of £2 million a year to the NSPCC to assist with the running of Childline. Those growing up in Britain today experience a range of ongoing pressures and risks in a changing World, and Childline provides them with a safe, supportive and confidential space that empowers them to improve their wellbeing. Over the years, more than 4.5 million children and young people have sought Childline’s help and last year more than 295,000 counselling sessions were provided to children and young people.

I believe it is incredibly important to protect the health of children and young people in our society. In recent years we have made huge progress in understanding mental health issues, and I support the Government’s efforts to transform children and young people’s mental health for the better in coming years.

Approximately 10 per cent of 5 to 16 year olds have a clinically diagnosable mental health problem. Between 2015 and 2020, an additional £1.4 billion is being invested to transform children and young people’s mental health; this money will support clinical commissioning groups and various national programmes, including improving crisis support and expanding the workforce.

The Children and Young People’s Mental Health Green Paper is a joint enterprise by the departments for health and education, which sets out ambitious proposals to improve mental health services for children and young people, together with over £300 million of funding. This will incentivise and support schools and colleges to train designated leaders for their pupils’ mental health, and introduce new mental health teams, both of which will ease pressure on NHS mental health services.

I received a number of complaints from constituents directed towards CAMHS in Nottinghamshire. I have been working with the CQC to improve children’s mental health services locally and am happy to see improvements are being made. A multi-million pound new facility with over 30 beds will be completed this year but there is still more that can be done to ensure that children and young people with poor mental health receive the treatment and the support that they need.