Norman Lamb tells the Eastern Daily Press that he threatened to resign during his 3 year term as health and social care minister.
The issue was waiting time targets for mental health conditions – and he got his way.
You always had the feeling that Norman knew exactly what he was doing on mental health but never quite knew why. Then in March, the Sunday Mirror revealed that Norman’s son Archie suffers with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. This is absolutely not about having all the tins facing the same way or the bed linen straight. It’s a daily nightmare for those people who are enslaved by its rituals which protect them from dark thoughts.
When his son Archie, now 27, was diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) 12 years ago, the North Norfolk MP witnessed the problems patients in Norfolk and Suffolk continue to face.
He explained: “As a family we were faced with the problems in Norfolk of long waiting times and told he had to wait six months to start psychological therapies.
“For us that was too long and I gave up on the NHS at that stage. We paid for him to get access to counselling, but I’m acutely aware many people cannot do that. I don’t find that situation tolerable.
“It got to the point where Archie couldn’t walk down the street, he was worried there would be something sharp on the pavement. He found it hard to leave the house. In that situation you are constantly checking things because of the dark thoughts in your mind, which you simply can’t escape from.”
He then talked about the targets he introduced and other things he’d done as health minister:
I know from my time within the Department of Health that on a Monday the Secretary of State, staff and NHS bosses sit down and obsess about these targets.
That filters to a local level so that it becomes the obsession of CCG managers, who hold the budgets. The money follows the target. That needs to apply to mental health.
We now have two targets, but only after I had to threaten to resign to get it done. There is massive evidence that if you intervene really quickly with psychosis you can save that person’s life. If you neglect it, it could lead to a life on benefits, difficult relationships and ongoing mental health issues.
Mr Lamb said he was also proud of work to reduce the number of patients being held in police cells, measures in prisons, efforts to recruit top graduates to the sector and increased investment in children’s services.
He said that he’s worried that the £1.25 billion he secured for children’s mental health may be axed by the Treasury – a move that would be counter-productive as early intervention works and decreases the need for hospital stays.
He added: “The reaction I’m getting from the government appears to be good. But Jeremy Hunt [the health secretary] has spoken publicly saying that his hands are tied and it is down to the Treasury.
“That makes me less confident because I know the NHS as a whole is under intolerable pressure. But unless we change something we are sleep-walking into a disaster.
“If we can make the investment in improving access, I’m 100pc convinced there will be a positive impact on society. It will get people back to work, away from hospitals and save money in the long run.
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