Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Party Policies on Mental Health

Mental Health is one of a whole herd of elephants in the room at this General Election. (Others include the epidemic of absent fathers, the need for an economic model based on something other than consumer credit, housing and house prices, Europe, Iraq etc.). Roughly 1 in 4 adults have an episode of depression at some point in their lives, with 36 million prescriptions for anti-depressants issued in 2008 (up 2m on 2007), and 1 in 6 adults currently medicated for mental illness.

There is both a massive personal, emotional and relational cost to all this, as well as an economic one. It's one symptom of the 'broken society' which the Conservatives seem to have forgotten about (how do you build a Big Society out of broken pieces?)

So what can 17 million mentally ill adults hope for from the next Government?
Labour: We will pioneer better mental health care and tackle the scourge of mental illness. Over the next Parliament more than 8,000 new therapists will ensure access to psychological therapy for all who need it as we seek to change our society’s attitudes to mental illness. (4:4)

we will work to reduce the number of women, young and mentally ill people in prison. (5:5)

(in a section on military policy) We will continue to strengthen mental health provision in partnership with the Combat Stress charity, and roll out our Welfare Pathway to give personnel and their families better support and advice (10:4)

reform of the GP contract to help ensure those with late-life depression and anxiety are diagnosed and supported; and better services for those with dementia and Alzheimer’s so that every area of the country has access to psychological therapy, counselling and memory clinics (6:6)

• Access to psychological therapy for those who need it. is one of 5 highlighted goals for the NHS on page 4:2, and is repeated as 'step 20' of '50 steps to a future fair for all' at the end of the manifesto.

Liberal Democrat:
We will help the NHS work better with the money it has by using the savings we have found to protect front-line services, such as cancer treatment, mental health care, maternity services, dementia care and preventive medicine. (p33)

• Prioritise dementia research within the health research and development budget. (p41)

• Improve access to counselling for people with mental health problems, by continuing the roll-out of cognitive and behavioural therapies. (p41)

Because of the rising costs of treatments and an ageing population, there will be particular pressure on services like cancer treatment, mental health care, maternity services, and dementia care; only by going through this process of finding savings elsewhere can we protect these services in the coming years (p40)

Move offenders who are drug addicts or mentally ill into more appropriate secure accommodation. (p74)

the appendix forecasts a cut in 'the economic costs of mental health problems' of £425m ni 2011-12, rising to £605m in 2014-15. (p102)

Mental health is also included in the index, and the 4 references above are all covered.

Conservative: a search for 'mental' found dozens of references to 'departmental', 'fundamental' and 'environmental'. And these..
• enable welfare-to-work providers and employers to purchase services from Mental Health Trusts; and,
• increase access to effective ‘talking’ therapies

• pilot a mental health follow-up service for those who have left the (armed) services (p107)

Update: see the 3rd comment, where our local Conservative candidate gives a bit more detail of their policies on mental health - thankyou Kevin.

Comment: mostly common ground here, and more from Labour and Libdems than the Conservatives. The frustrating thing is that much of it is about dealing with symptoms - more therapy, more dementia support, more support for forces veterans. Labour is the only party to talk about attitudes, but only does so briefly. There are structural factors in our society which contribute to mental illness: family breakup, stress, consumerism, advertising, poverty, the abolition of a weekly day of rest, etc. We've had a historic opportunity, with the debt crunch, to ask questions about the kind of society and culture we want to be. But who is asking those questions?

other links:
Mental Nurse summarises policies from Libdems & UKIP, and Labour and Conservative. Worth a look as this is someone within the mental health sector.
Discussion board links to Green party policies, and some debate.
A summary of policies at Rethink, with links to other signifiacant party policy documents.


  1. I think it's disappointing that the parties seem to be fixated with CBT over other talking therapies. CBT is all very good if it works but its not a panacea for all mental health problems.

  2. fair comment about Conservatives lagging behind on mental health

  3. This is the Conservative Policy twoards mental health. Hope it helps!

    Mental Health

    Early intervention. The most effective and efficient way of improving well-being is through early intervention. So we will focus on the underlying drivers of mental health illnesses, rather than merely treating the consequences of a problem.

    'Health at work' schemes. The Public Health Commission that we set up last year, recommended ways in which employers could improve the general well being of their employees. A key recommendation, which we endorse, is to empower the work force to maintain good mental health by using the local networks of business organisations to establish 'Health at Work' schemes.

    More involvement for patients in their care. We want patients to feel greater ownership of their treatment, in order to increase the likelihood if their complying with the various steps along that pathway. Our policies to give GPs responsibility for the budgets for their patients' care and to introduce a per patient funding system for mental health will help to make this a reality.

    Payment by results. We will find better ways to measure the results that mental health care providers achieve and ensure that they are paid according to these.

    More freedoms for mental healthcare providers. Mental Health Foundation Trusts are currently barred from receiving any private income. This impedes them from working with independent welfare-to-work providers and employers and means that many unemployed people and at-risk workers are missing out on the help they need. We will lift this barrier to make available specialist help for unemployed people, and better in-work support.

    Back to work programmes. We support a large expansion of independent back-to-work provision for unemployed people. We want these providers to be able to purchase mental health services from Foundation Trusts to deal with common client problems that prevent a return to work. Lifting this barrier will also allow employers to access occupational health services through Foundation Trusts, providing a major boost to promoting better in-work mental health support.