So, Theresa May gave an interview to Sky’s Sophy Ridge today in which she gave the biggest signal yet that leaving the single market is very much on the agenda.
In time honoured tradition, there’s a nice petition you can sign if you agree with Tim Farron that “reckless plans to leave the Single Market would make us all poorer.”
But it’s something else she said in her interview that grabbed my attention. She had moved from saying not much actually on Brexit to a very small amount on the NHS to talking about her speech tomorrow. Apparently mental health is a priority of hers. Who knew? The Prime Minister said:
If I can give you an example of something I have already done, when I was in the Home Office one of the issues that concerned me was people in mental health crisis being taken to a police cell as a place of last resort. It wasn’t good for them, it wasn’t good for the police. Actually we’ve changed that and we’ve seen the number for whom that happens coming down by 80% and that was a small sum of money that the NHS has been able to put in in order to ensure that there are more, for example more and different places of safety for people …
“I have already done.” Really?
Well, let’s look at an unbiased source, shall we? The Government website which announced this initiative back in 2014 didn’t mention Theresa May anywhere. The main names were Liberal Democrat ministers Nick Clegg and Norman Lamb. Yes, there was Home Office involvement, but it was Lamb who had done all the work bringing it together across government. He was the driving force behind all the mental health measures introduced by the Coalition Government.
At the time, Norman Lamb wrote for this site about what he had managed to achieve. Here’s a reminder of what he said:
When someone is experiencing a mental health crisis, it essential that they feel able to access the help they need – and quickly. They will probably be in a state of extreme distress and confusion. Without help, people may be at risk of causing harm to themselves and those around them (cases of injury to others are actually very rare). They often end up in police cells – completely inappropriately. They may even commit suicide – and all too often, I hear tragic cases of suicide after someone has repeatedly been unable to access mental health crisis support.
This isn’t just an issue for the NHS. Often people in mental health crisis will initially come into contact with the police, or other public services. It is essential that, however or wherever people in need of urgent support are discovered, there is an effective and consistent response. I want to build a fairer society in which people with acute mental health problems are given te medical support they need – not locked up in police custody.
Earlier this week, I announced (in conjunction with my colleague at the Home Office) a Concordat for Crisis Mental Health Care. More than twenty national organisations have signed up to the Concordat – including the Association of Chief Police Officers. As a Liberal Democrat, I want to see better care across our health and care system. The Concordat sets out the standards of care people should expect if they suffer a mental health crisis, specifying how emergency services ought to respond. Full details of the document are available here.
A key part of this plan is information sharing. Only this morning, I learned about a constituency case in which someone was arrested by the police after experiencing a very serious mental health crisis – and the police did not discover that they had mental health problems, and did not make an appropriate referral until their relatives got in touch hours later. The Concordat sets out an expectation that services will share essential “need to know” information to help deliver better, more personalised care.
The Concordat also sets out timescales for responding to mental health crisis – so, for example, police officers know how long they will have to wait for a response from health and care workers. And we are challenging local areas to make sure that there are adequate health-based “places of safety” in every part of the country, as well as crisis mental health beds for when they are needed. I will continue to push over the coming weeks to ensure that local health commissioners reflect their obligation to promote equality for mental health in the way they set next year’s budgets.
At its heart, today’s announcement is about ensuring parity of esteem – equality – for mental health. When someone suffers from a physical health crisis, there is a clear expectation that Accident and Emergency wards, Ambulance Services, and other organisations will be available to respond and that effective care will be provided. But with mental health conditions, all too often that simply isn’t the case. I am absolutely determined that there must be effective crisis mental health support available when it is needed. The Concordat represents a shared commitment across our public services to address that imbalance, and ensure better care across the system to make a very real and positive difference to people’s lives.
If Theresa May had been so interested in mental health, she might have done more to make the immigration system more humane for people to navigate. Even relatively straightforward cases could be incredibly stressful, as Holly Matthies wrote here. That was in her power to do for six years and she didn’t change things.
This is a clear case of victors re-writing history. It’s important that we don’t allow our positive contributions on these vital issues to be airbrushed out.
* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings