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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

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Month in Parliament: December 2016 to January 2017

Prime Minister Mental Health Announcements

The Prime Minister Theresa May used her first speech of the year to say that she wanted the Government to tackle the ‘despicable stigma’ and ‘inadequate help’ for people with mental health conditions. She made a series of new policy announcements about mental health, including establishing a new partnership with employers to support mental health in the work place, accelerating delivery of a digital mental health package and investing in places of safety for people in crisis.

The speech had a strong focus on child and adolescent mental health. Including announcing that Mental Health First Aid training will be offered to every secondary school across the next three years and that there needs to be improved links between Ofsted and CQC. These will all be included into a new Green Paper on children and young people’s mental health to transform services in schools and universities. We are expecting the new Green Paper to be launched this year potentially with the Queen’s Speech in June.

Shadow Minister for Mental Health Barbara Keeley branded the Government’s record on mental health as ‘one of failure’, whilst Lib Dem Health lead Norman Lamb said Mrs May was just re-announcing policies agreed under the coalition that the current government had failed to ensure the investment had gone through.

On the same day the Government also published their official response to the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health, accepting each of the 58 recommendations and promising mental health spend increase by £1bn a year by the end of Parliament.

To coincide with the speech the Government also published the report ‘Preventing suicide in England: Third progress report of the cross-government outcomes strategy to save lives’.

 

Simon Stevens and Jeremy Hunt grilled by Lords

In mid December NHS England CEO Simon Stevens and Jeremy Hunt MP took their turn appearing before the Lords Committee on the Long Term Sustainability of the NHS. Mental health was one of the key areas they were grilled on by the Committee. When asked about parity of esteem, Simon Stevens said that the NHS wanted to make tangible steps in addressing “obvious service gaps” in mental health services but acknowledged that not all issues would be addressed.

The Secretary of State said that the Government was “broadly on track” when it came to fulfilling the Mental Health Five Year Forward View, and noted that the document itself had acknowledged that the process might take closer to ten years.

Jeremy Hunt said that the Commission for Workforce Intelligence had been commissioned to conduct some research to support efforts to deliver reforms such as the integration of physical and mental healthcare. He also pointed to the potential to develop new occupations within the healthcare sector, such as physicians’ associates.

New Health Minister appointed

Lord O’Shaughnessy has been appointed as Parliamentary Undersecretary of State for the Department of Health. He replaces Lord Prior of Brampton, who will move over to be a junior minister at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Lord O’Shaughnessy was awarded a peerage in 2015 in recognition of his role from 2007 to 2011 as Special Adviser to David Cameron. During this time, he was responsible for drafting the Conservative Party’s 2010 manifesto, as well as co-authoring the Coalition Programme for Government.

His main political interest lies in education. Lord O’Shaughnessy published a paper in 2005 entitled More Good School Places, which advocated the creation of “free schools” independent of local authority control. In 2013 he founded a charity, Floreat Education, which runs a schools franchise aiming to develop “young people’s character strengths and virtues” whilst simultaneously developing their academic knowledge and skills.

He is going to be covering a wide brief at the Department including the challenging task of how the NHS is going to deal with Brexit.

Lord O’Shaughnessy tweeted that he was “Honoured and thrilled to be joining the Govt as Lords Health Minister. Can't wait to get started.”

Opposition Day Debate

Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth called an ‘emergency summit’ with Royal Colleges and health unions to discuss health and social care pressures. Attended by RCPsych Chief Executive Paul Rees, the College spoke about the importance of liaison psychiatry in A&E departments in addition to the shocking rise in A&E attendances by children in a mental health crisis.

Labour set the topic for their Opposition Day Debate as NHS and Social Care funding. The College sent a briefing to MPs reinforcing the points Paul Rees raised at the summit. Helen Whatley MP, Chair of the APPG on Mental Health spoke in the debate about liaison psychiatry. She credited the importance of liaison psychiatrists in A&E ‘in the prevention of suicide’ and welcomed that there would be psychiatric liaison in all A&Es by 2018.

 

 

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