by Steve Beasant on 20 November, 2015
As a minister in the Department of Health, I was determined to build a real momentum towards achieving equality for people with mental ill health. The first ever waiting time and access standards for mental health treatment; trebling the number of people accessing psychological therapies; halving the number of people detained in police cells during a mental health crisis; making sure that mental health is an issue talked about and acted on at the top levels of government.
Yet there remains an outrageous discrimination at the heart of the NHS. The truth is that there is a complete imbalance of rights of access to treatment on a timely basis between physical health and mental health. We have the 4-hour A&E target, cancer targets and the 18-week referral to treatment target. These are incredibly politically potent. Yet in mental health, until April this year when we introduced the first ever maximum waiting time standards in mental health, there was nothing. This dictates where the money goes. Mental health always loses out.
The argument for mental health equality cannot simply be made exclusively by those with a professional interest. The push for mental health equality will only succeed as a strong social movement. That’s why I recently joined forces with Alistair Campbell, Andrew Mitchell MP and Ruby Wax to launch a major cross-society non-partisan campaign calling on the Government to prioritise investment in mental health services in the upcoming Spending Review.
I am delighted that more than 200 figures from across society have signed up to ‘Equality 4 Mental Health’, including leading names from the worlds of the arts, culture, sport, business, and faith communities. Danny Boyle, Emma Thompson, Sir Ian McKellen, Dame Kelly Holmes, Alan Rickman, Annie Lennox, Steve Coogan, Dawn French, Louis Theroux, Richard E Grant, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and many others – all speaking out, with one voice, to support the human, moral and economic argument for a fair deal for mental health.
The Spending Review is a critical moment that will shape the Government’s spending for the duration of the Parliament, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer has an opportunity to make a bold statement on the importance of tackling mental illness. I will not be humoured by the warm words for mental health and my efforts as a minister – it’s about time that this Government put their money where their mouth is.
And it isn’t simply a case of investing to improve mental health services or leaving them the way they are. Mental health trusts are under severe financial strain, and last week’s report by the King’s Fund was the latest in a long line of warnings of the impact of neglecting mental health. There is no doubt that services will slip backwards if we do not take urgent action to provide stable funding for mental health, on a par with physical health.
One in four people will experience a mental health problem at some point during their lifetime, and a far greater number will know somebody who is affected. I strongly encourage everybody to sign the petition at www.equality4mentalhealth.uk to send a clear message to the Chancellor that this is an opportunity not to be missed.Leave a comment