P-37: What are the Liberal Democrats talking about today? Mental Health and the manifesto for the mind

We’ll be having daily deeper and more detailed look at the party’s main theme. Today it’s mental health. Nick Clegg and Norman Lamb this morning said that Liberal Democrats (or should that be Democats?) would invest £3.5 billion in mental health over the next Parliament.

Part of our record in Government includes securing £150 million to help young people with eating disorders. A new video shows Kat sharing her experience of living with an eating disorder:

The Party’s Manifesto for the mind outlines a wide-ranging suite of measures to improve mental health services:

●     Continue to roll out access and waiting time standards for children, young people and adults, in line with the strategy launched last October. This will include a waiting time standard from referral of no more than 6 weeks for therapy for depression or anxiety and a two week wait standard for all young people experiencing a first episode of psychosis.

●     Increase access to evidence based talking therapies so that hundreds of thousands more people can get access to this support. Our long term goal is to see everyone who can benefit being treated, but we will set an interim target of raising access to 25% of those who could benefit as soon as possible.

●     Invest £250m over five years in transforming care for pregnant women, new mothers and those who have experienced miscarriage or still birth, and help them get the early care they need.

●     As announced in the Budget, we will invest £1.25bn over five years to revolutionise children’s mental health services, to ensure every child has the opportunity to get on in life. We will implement the proposals outlined in the recent report of the Children’s Mental Health Taskforce. This means building better links with schools, ensuring all children develop mental resilience, and getting support and care quickly to those who are struggling. Our investment will help ensure children can access high quality care closer to home.

●     We will put mental health on the curriculum and build better links with schools. Our investment will help ensure children are able to access high quality care nearer to home, enabling them to keep in contact with family and friends.

●     Ensure that no one in crisis will be turned away, with new waiting time standards and better crisis care in hospital A&E departments, in the community and with crisis phone lines. This will enable us to end the use of police cells for people suffering from a mental health crisis.

●     Establish a world-leading mental health research fund, investing £50m in cutting edge research to further our understanding of mental illness and the most effective treatments.

●     Continue to support the Time to Change programme to tackle stigma against mental health.

●     Introduce care navigators so that people get help finding their way around the system.

●     Set stretching targets to improve the physical health of people with mental health problems and join up care so there is more mental health support in your GP surgery and more physical health advice and support within mental health services.

●     Ensure all front line public service professionals, including in schools and universities, get better training in mental health – helping them to develop their own mental resilience as well as learning to identify people with mental health problems.

●     Radically transform mental health services, extending the use of personal budgets, integrating care more fully with the rest of the NHS, introducing rigorous inspection and high quality standards, comprehensive collection of data to monitor outcomes and waiting times and changing the way services are funded so that they do not lose out in funding decisions in future.

●     Publish a national wellbeing strategy which puts better health and wellbeing for all at the heart of government policy. This includes promoting better public health policy to benefit mental as well as physical health, such as access to the natural environment.

●     As part of this strategy, we will develop a clear approach on preventing mental ill health,  with a public health campaign promoting the steps people can take to improve their own mental health – the wellbeing equivalent of the “five a day” campaign for healthy eating.

●     Support the development of good practice among employers in promoting wellbeing and ensure people with mental health problems get the help they need to stay in their jobs or to find work.

The bottom line

This would be paid for by abolishing the Conservatives’ shares for rights, raising the Capital Gains annual exemption  to £2,500 and increasing the percentage of shares you need to own before qualifying for Entrepreneur’s Relief and incorporates money already secured by the Liberal Democrats for the NHS in the budget and Autumn statement. The element of risk in the figures is that they depend on continued economic growth enabling increased tax receipts to be invested in the NHS.

A huge practical difference

Three quick observations about the measures proposed, which will make a huge difference to so many people.

We’ve heard countless examples over the years of people in great distress having to wait many months to even be seen. The party’s proposals go a long way to tackling this.

We heard recently of a situation where a teenager was sent to an Accident and Emergency Department for a mental health matter and experienced a distressing encounter with staff who clearly had no idea to relate to someone in their state. Unable to speak, this teenager withdrew into themselves as they were told that they were wasting people’s time if they didn’t talk. That shows why better training is absolutely vital to promote understanding.

Particularly welcome is the extra funding to help mothers with post natal depression or parents who have suffered the agony of stillbirth or miscarriage. There is greater understanding these days about the distress and grief that people experience on losing a child, but the services and support available don’t match the need for them.

Want to know more?

Read the Manifesto for the Mind.