The Government is to plough an extra £400 million into mental health provision in a bid to put it on an equal footing with physical health, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has said.
Under its newly published mental health strategy, the coalition aims to treat mental health with the same priority and importance as physical health for the first time – and to combat the stigma attached to it. It will also stress the need for early intervention, to nip in the bud mental health problems in children.
Mr Clegg said: “For far too long we’ve allowed there to be a stigma attached to mental health. If you speak to people in the health service they say mental health has been treated as a Cinderella service.”
But he acknowledged that unemployment and other economic stresses could cause a rise in such problems.
Speaking on Daybreak, Mr Clegg said: “Today we are announcing that we are repealing an old-fashioned outdated law which means that MPs at the moment are disqualified from being MPs if they have a mental health problem which goes on for more than six months. It is a relatively symbolic thing because it has never been used – but it nonetheless shows that we are determined to root out that stigma.”
He said the Government was also providing more money to help veterans of conflicts such as Iraq and Afghanistan combat mental illness.
The cash being pumped into mental health provision under the new strategy will be extra money, he added, and would not just be shunted from another part of the health budget.
But Labour and some mental health charities cast doubt on the strategy, being launched as it is against a backdrop of cuts to other services. Shadow care minister Emily Thornberry accused the Government of being “far from clear” as to how it was going to achieve its aims.
Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of the charity Sane, said: “Our concern…is that this ‘therapy for the nation’ strategy could be perceived as a panacea for the whole spectrum of mental health conditions, and is being launched against a background of serial closures of psychiatric beds, day centres, occupational therapy facilities and community services.
“We expect further cuts when health service savings start to bite. There are also worries that there will be confusion when GPs, some of whom may have limited specialist mental health knowledge, take the lead on commissioning services.”