Labour vows mental health care push

Published: Monday 19th January 2015 by The News Editor

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Ed Miliband has accused the coalition of failing people with mental health problems by making “false economies” in the NHS.

Unveiling a report into the issue, the Labour leader said young people were not being diagnosed early enough and cuts were undermining treatment, resulting in much higher costs in the longer-term.

Making “smart investments” such as therapy provision and training for teachers could improve outcomes and save money.

The comments came ahead of a conference on mental health being held by Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg in central London tomorrow.

The Deputy Prime Minister will call on all NHS trusts to commit to a new ambition for “zero suicides”, with measures such as introducing “personal safety plans” for those thought to be at risk.

“Suicide is, and always has been, a massive taboo in our society,” Mr Clegg will say. “People are genuinely scared to talk about it, never mind intervene when they believe a loved one is at risk.

“That’s why I’m issuing a call to every part of the NHS to commit to a new ambition for zero suicides.

“This isn’t about blame. It is doing more in every area of our society to ensure that people don’t get to that point where they believe taking their own life is their only option.”

The Mental Health Taskforce report, commissioned by Mr Miliband in 2012, was written by Sir Stephen O’Brien, Chairman of Barts Health NHS Trust.

It recommends early action to prevent problems escalating and increasing the burden on the NHS, as well as a focus on environmental factors that can make issues worse.

“For want of getting people the support they need, when they need it, we are having to pay billions dealing with problems when they reach crisis point,” the document states.

Mr Miliband said: “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 £3 billion 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, over time, 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.”

Mr Miliband said youngsters with emotional problems were twice as likely to struggle with reading, spelling and maths.

“Around 10% 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 linked up with the help and support they need.”

Labour is backing the report’s proposals for expanding talking therapies, pledging to “work towards” 80% of adults and children waiting less than 28 days for access.

Every £1 invested in such therapies is estimated to save £1.75, through reduced physical healthcare and welfare costs.

Mr Miliband said: “We will only ensure the NHS can survive the very real funding pressures it faces if we stop making false economies by stripping back preventative services and start making smart investments in early intervention and support.

“Without decisive action to tackle problems before they become too serious, the NHS will be overwhelmed as it struggles to pick up the pieces.”

Published: Monday 19th January 2015 by The News Editor

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