Nick Clegg has written about mental health in today’s Evening Standard column.
One story illustrates different attitudes to physical and mental health:
A few years ago, I met a man called Robert at a mental health trust in Liverpool. He was in his sixties, well-dressed and with a neatly trimmed moustache that gave him something of the air of a Fifties provincial bank manager — not the image you normally associate with severe mental illness. He told me that a few years earlier he had been in hospital with a heart condition and, while he was there, he had been visited regularly by friends and family, sometimes three or four times a day. This outpouring of love was a great tonic for him as he recovered. But he was hospitalised on another occasion — this time for a mental health condition. During the five months he languished in hospital he was visited just three times. The contrast speaks volumes.
He talks about the work that the Liberal Democrats did government, and goes on to outline 3 new priorities for action:
The first is the way it is funded. Part of the reason that there have been cuts in mental health services despite the renewed focus from government is down to an important, if technical, discrepancy in the way they are paid for. A hospital, for example, is paid by activity: each procedure has a price attached to it and the more it performs the more money it gets. Mental health trusts, on the other hand, usually get a block grant. So when demand goes up, the money stays the same.
Worse still, because it is one big wodge of money, it is easier for those in charge to slice a bit off the top when asked to make savings. Mental health trusts should, as a matter of urgency, be given the same funding formula as other NHS trusts.
The second is the training given to teachers and GPs. Extraordinarily, neither are trained to spot and respond to mental health problems as part of their qualifications. Everyone knows that the pressures which can trigger underlying mental health illness may lie in the home, or the classroom, or come about because of changes to a person’s benefits or a lack of housing. It is crucial that people who look after people’s wider welfare — teachers and GPs especially — should be given the training to act and refer someone to a specialist before things get worse.
You can read the whole article here.
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