PM and Chancellor must deliver equality for mental health, urge former Health Secretaries

The cross-party ‘Equality 4 Mental Health’ campaign has won the backing of nine former Health Secretaries in calling on the Prime Minister and the Chancellor to address the continuing injustice suffered by people with mental ill health in next week’s Autumn Statement.

The health secretaries, who served under both Labour and the Conservatives, have been joined by seven former health ministers, the former Chief Executive of NHS England, a former Permanent Secretary at the Department of Health, the current chair of the Health Select Committee, and leading mental health charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness.

The 'Equality 4 Mental Health' campaign was launched ahead of last year's spending review by Lib Dem MP Norman Lamb, Tory MP Andrew Mitchell and Time to Change Ambassador Alastair Campbell. 250 leaders from across society joined the demand for an end to the historic injustice of discrimination against the mentally ill within the NHS, and the then Chancellor George Osborne recognised the work of the campaign in announcing an extra £600m for mental health services.

However, many of the examples of injustice and discrimination that were identified a year ago are still all-too-evident evident today.

Many mental health trusts continue to experience cuts to their budgets despite the rhetoric of ‘parity of esteem’ from Government and NHS England. Suicide remains the biggest killer of men under the age of 45 in the UK. Mental health research receives a disproportionately small amount of public funding, and flagship new treatment standards for people suffering from a first episode of psychosis have not been backed by the necessary resources.

In her first speech as Prime Minister, Theresa May promised to fight “burning injustice” in British society, highlighting that there is too often “not enough help to hand” for those who suffer from mental health conditions. She is right, and now has the opportunity to address this.

Norman Lamb, the Liberal Democrat spokesperson and former Minister of State for Care and Support, said:

“It is a stain on our country that people with mental ill health are so often treated as second class citizens. Last year’s joint statement sent a powerful message that this cannot be tolerated, but still we are reminded on a weekly basis how people with mental illness are left without the treatment and support they desperately need.

“Promised investment hasn’t made the difference many expected – especially in services for children and young people, where the majority of mental health problems begin. At a time when the prevalence of mental illness seems to be rising, it would be negligent for the Government not to act."

Alastair Campbell, former Director of Communications to Tony Blair and co-founder of Equality 4 Mental Health, said:

"We welcome the fact that stigma around mental illness is decreasing but are concerned that the services are not there to match the need. The Prime Minister’s expressed commitment to tackling the growing mental health crisis is welcome, and the Autumn Statement is a golden opportunity for her to deliver on this rhetoric.”

Andrew Mitchell, Conservative MP for Sutton Coldfield and former International Development Secretary and Government Chief Whip, said:

“We are concerned at the new evidence emerging of inequalities in the mental health system based on age, gender, ethnicity and social class. Promised funding for children and young people’s mental health is not getting through to where it is needed in many parts of the country. NHS Digital has also exposed a dramatic increase in mental illness and self-harm among young women in recent years, while people from Black British communities and lower-income households are less likely to receive treatment for common mental disorders.

“People of all political stripes, who share a belief in the fundamental principle of equality for mental health, must work together to make this ambition a reality.”

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