We sent our manifesto to all parties in the upcoming General Election and asked them to write a blog about how they will approach mental health if they form the next government. Here's what the Conservative party had to say.
On the steps of Downing Street, on my first day as Prime Minister, I talked about a lack of mental health support as one of the burning injustices that blights our society.
1 in 6 people in England experience a mental health problem in any given week.
I met a young woman in my constituency who told me of the struggles she had in getting help, making her young life far more painful than it should have been. If I am Prime Minister on 9th June, I am determined to be the champion for people like her – and for transforming standards of treatment – in government.
So during this election campaign one of my first policy announcements was a pledge to change the three-decades old law governing mental health treatment – and my manifesto built on that. We will be a government unafraid to tackle the stigma of mental health, and the next five years offer the opportunity of profound change.
Of course, Mind has been a leader for decades – your work even predates the NHS’ establishment in 1948. Paul Farmer, your Chief Executive, was instrumental in shaping the government’s mental health action plan. And through a network of around 140 local Minds, you’re offering support to more people than ever.
So how will my government respond to your calls for action?
First, we need to ensure even more people benefit from mental health treatment – which is why funding is rising by £1.4 billion in real terms by 2020. To make sure there is more support in every part of the country, we will recruit 10,000 more mental health professionals in the next three years.
More broadly, we will help all of the NHS’ medical staff – hundreds of thousands of people – to deepen their understanding of mental health. We’ll offer all trainees a chance to experience working in mental health disciplines. And to make sure that mental health expertise is spread throughout the NHS, we will make sure medical exams better reflect the importance of this area.
Over half of mental health problems start below the age of 14, and increasingly children’s mental wellbeing is affected by internet harms like cyberbullying. So I’ll ensure every primary and secondary school has staff trained in mental health first aid and a proper point of contact with local services. We want to see far more in the school curriculum about mental wellbeing for our children. For children who need more specialist care, we’ll reform CAMHS too.
Our plans to rip up the 1983 Mental Health Act – a piece of legislation that still governs the majority of treatment in this country today, despite being a generation out of date – will help to address an unacceptable 43 per cent rise in the use of detention over the last decade, the clearest sign that too many people suffer inappropriate care.
As the Care Quality Commission says, at present the Act disempowers patients and at times may amount to unethical practice.
I am concerned that black people in particular are significantly more likely to be detained in secure mental health wards.
So a priority of mine in the next Parliament will be to put parity of esteem and capacity at the heart of a new Mental Health Treatment Bill.
I am also determined to improve workplace life for those with mental health conditions. We all know that problems like depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder are often intermittent, but currently you’re only protected under the Equalities Act if your condition is continuous for 12 months, so the law will be reformed making it finally fit for purpose. We’ll also change Health and Safety at Work regulations to take account of risks to mental health.
Having listened to individuals who have raised this with me personally, Conservatives will end the abhorrent practice by which indebted patients can be charged up to £150 by their GP for a mental health and debt form to prove their mental ill-health.
These reforms speak to a bigger truth – I want my government to build a society which works for everyone, not just the privileged few. That is the case I will be making every day to polling day. If I am returned to government, with your help I hope we’ll look back on the years to 2022 as the time we made a decisive improvement for those who have mental health conditions and their families.