This October, I will have been associated with the Liberals and the Liberal Democrats for some 45 years. In 1972 I joined the Liberal Students at Manchester University Medical School where my best subjects were Psychology and Psychiatry so it is unsurprising, perhaps, that I have not only pursued the interests of the NHS as a whole but have also retained a special interest in Mental Health matters.
One of the much-trumpeted achievements of the Llib Dems in Coalition was to raise the profile of mental health within the NHS and Norman Lamb in particular pushed the need for an earmarked expansion of funding so that Mental Health Services (whether we talk about Alzheimers or child psychiatry services) could reach a ‘level playing field’ with physical health matters.
But has this happened? Two years after the Coalition has ended, there are reports that mental Health Services have been CUT across a wide range of NHS Trusts. It is fine for Theresa May to talk the talk but does her government walk the walk?
Terrorist incidents and hideous fires rightly catch the headlines when scores of people perish unnecessarily. Yet it is an unavoidable fact of life that more people meet preventable early ends to their life every month due to mental health issues than die from terrorism or negligence of building inspectors combined in any year. So, while we should indeed take every step we can to try to reduce the impact of terrorism on our society and pursue to the nth degree questions as to how tower blocks get clad with inflammable material, please do not allow those matters to divert you from a far, far bigger killer. If those previously-promised resources are not piled into mental health services as Norman Lamb sought to have them piled in (and received coalition assurances that they would be piled in) then the relentless death toll will continue and possibly rise all over the country.
Any life brought to an end early is a tragedy but I was brought up to believe, as a Liberal, that no particular life has more value than any other. Each tragedy, whatever the cause, leaves husbands, wives, sons and daughters, mother, brothers, fathers and sisters as well as close friends bereft. Please keep up the pressure on mental health provision and funding in your area, your region and the nation.
* Councillor Tony Dawson is Lib Dem Shadow Cabinet member for Health and Adult Care on Sefton MBC . He is a former NHS middle manager and whistleblower who, in 1991, won a Judicial Review in the High Court against the NW Regional Health Authority for their improper dismissal of him.