If you read this column regularly, you’ll know that I take a special interest in mental health issues. I work with local charities and support groups here in North Devon, and nationally I’m campaigning specifically on the issue of young people and the mental health challenges they face.
Last week, Professor Sir Simon Wessely published the interim findings of his review into the laws covering this area, particularly the Mental Health Act.
For too long, mental illness has been a hidden injustice. The government wants to change this and transform mental health services so people can get the care they need and deserve. The review was set up to ensure that mental health laws work better for patients and their families.
Sir Simon has identified a number of priority areas which will form the basis of recommendations for government later this year. These include making sure people are involved in the decisions about their care and that they’re treated with dignity and respect.
The government has also introduced the first ever waiting time standards for mental health services and has given mental and physical health equal priority in law. These are crucial measures to ensure patients receive timely and appropriate treatment.
We’re also investing record amounts in mental health. Spending in 2018-19 will be almost £12 billion, significantly higher than the £7 billion spent on mental health services in 2009-10. This funding includes an additional £1.4 billion for young people’s mental health services by 2020. Given my particular interest, this is especially welcome, and as always I will fight to ensure services here in North Devon receive our fair share.
Mental health funding has gone up by 7.8 per cent since 2015-16. NHS England’s ‘Standard for Mental Health Investment’ requires local NHS bodies to increase mental health investment year on year, by more than their overall budget increase, to improve parity between physical and mental health.
There’s still a lot of work to do, but this is such an important area and we must get it right. I will continue to take a very close interest in this vital issue.