This was one of the questions at today’s hustings in Godalming:
For many decades the policy of care in the community has not worked for psychotic people, their families and their communities. It appears to be mainly a way of avoiding the cost of effective care, leaving relatives and neighbours to pick up the bill and to suffer the adverse consequences. Would the candidates resource it adequately and/or press for a more assertive approach by psychiatric social workers?
Jeremy Hunt replied and said he was pleased people were talking about mental health. He said he has worked very closely with his Liberal Democrat colleague Norman Lamb who has championed mental health. Said has introduced waiting times targets for people with psychosis. Said there is a lot more to do. Need to recognise big growth in number of people with depression. Need to work much better with people with dementia. In the end it comes down to the question of resources. Some may feel it is counter-intuitive for the 2nd election in a row the Conservatives are saying we will put more into the NHS than Labour. There is a very simple reason for it. By the end of the next parliament, we will have a million more people in the country who are over 70. The NHS actually thinks there’ll be a £30mn gap. They think they can bridge 2/3rds of that through efficiencies. Said will need more doctors and more nurses, which is why that prosperity with a purpose that we believe in does mean more resources into the NHS and more into mental health.
Louise Irvine replied:
As a GP, I look after patients with mental health problems – depression, anxiety and also people with psychosis. Where I live in Lewisham there have been real cutbacks in mental health services but I was very surprised to find the same is happening here. Families have come to me to say that crisis care here has been cut. That their key workers that help people with mental health problems, who help manage their medication and help them stay in the community have been cut. I do believe in care in the community. But, the idea that it is a cheap option is completely wrong. It is not cheap. Mental health is supposed to have parity of esteem with physical health. That was in the Health & Social Care Act, three years ago (Dr Irvine turns to Jeremy Hunt) … What were you doing? You haven’t been funding mental health properly. The Labour party certainly did put a lot more money into healthcare when they came to power. Your government has actually underfunded the NHS and underfunded mental health much more than physical health. We’ve got 4,000 fewer mental health nurses. We have had senior mental health nurses here losing their jobs in order to save money. Often there are no acute mental health beds anywhere in the country and sometimes people have had to stay in police cells. So, don’t have this hypocrisy. Let’s fund mental health properly.