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I hope someone asks Cameron about Guardian splash on mental health at his press conference

Posted on 21 June 2011 | 8:06am

Like many mental health campaigners, I gave Nick Clegg the benefit of the doubt when he outlined the government’s strategy for mental health in February.

To save you reading the whole thing, here is the last sentence of the piece I posted then … ‘This has never been the sexiest or easiest issue in the world. If Nick Clegg is seeking to become the voice of the mentally ill within government, then he deserves support. And I hope we will soon hear him make the argument that anyone who thinks cuts to mental health services are an easy option – the Conservative default position – should realise there are significant knock-on costs to the budgets for welfare, housing and the criminal justice system.’

But if today’s front page lead interview with the outgoing President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists is anything to go by, mental health could be turning into just one more issue where Clegg talks a good game, but delivers less than promised.

Even accepting that the Royal College is a vested interest bound to want to fight for resources within pressured budgets, the message from Professor Dinesh Bhugra fits all too well with stories coming into mental health charities from all around the country.

There is always a danger, when NHS budgets are under real pressure, that mental health services become the Cinderella services once more. It looks like it is happening.

The Department of Health is quoted in The Guardian as saying ‘Mental Health is a cross-government priority. We published No Health Without Mental Health, our cross-government mental health outcomes strategy, to drive up standards in services and improve the nation’s mental health. The strategy makes clear that mental health services should be just as important as physical health services such as those for cancer and heart disease.’

That is the strategy. Professor Bhugra is talking about the impact, which appears not to resonate with the warm words.

Number 10 has done a good job setting up the Prime Minister’s press conference today to be about prison sentencing, and the U-turn on Ken Clarke’s plans. He will also be asked, I imagine, about pensions, Libya, Syria, and much else besides.

But I do hope someone asks him to spell out how he intends to meet the gap between the strategy set out by Nick Clegg, and the services Professor Bhugra says are being delivered.

  • Alistair – I think you are spot on with this – there is a gap between the rhetoric of the strategy and what is being delivered. I fear many mental health services will be at the mercy of commissioners who see it as an easy place to reduce services – especially to cut beds and community services in a random way. As someone who works in the field and who has written commissioning guidance published by the RCPsych and RCGP, I welcome their commitment, however vested, in keeping mental health high on the agenda. Equally your own campaigning has done much to advance the cause of reducing stigma.

    Steve Appleton – health and social care consultant

  • Guest Nurse

    I work in a mental health unit in London. We are being closed because we don’t operate at full capacity. But for something like severe mental distress, there has to be at least some spare capacity. Otherwise clinicians are under pressure to push people out when they are not ready, which is what is happening

  • Colin Squires

    I also hopes someone asks him if he understands that there will be a future link between his decision to backtrack on Clarke’s sensible attempt to reform, and future mental illness problems in prisons ill equipped to cope. Like you I saw the Strangeways series recently. If Cameron watched tht he might think again.

  • Pauline Eccles

    don’t hold your breath. I get the feeling they ask what they’re told to

  • Duncan Phipp-MacIntyre

    Intermittent illness that is difficult to quantify or measure is an easy target for the nasty party. This absolutely those of us whose fragile lives could so easily be blighted by these “reforms” and the heartless bunch behind them.
    I see no insight, care or empathy from this pack of wolves.
    Only a couple of days ago we had the heartless Tory M.P. from Shipley offering us the chance to “be allowed” to work for less than the minimum wage. His comments were truly vile and are a true reflection of Tory “values”.

  • Paul M

    Sensible prison and justice reform needs more money short term not spending cuts. I agree that prison often makes mental illness worse. Effective treatment in a hospital is needed. The problem with Clarke’s attempt to give a 50% discount on sentences is that the public feels conned already because prison sentences handed down by the judge bear little relation to actual time served when you include parole. It’s an issue of trust and transparency. If Clarke wants shorter sentences he should change the sentencing guidelines and reduce the maximum terms. Clarke’s case was that he could reduce the prison population while minimising the ordeal for victims at trials but there was little evidence that accused persons would actually put their hand up when they had the chance of an acquital.

  • DM

    Sorry to be slightly off subject on this one but “You do the fighting and I’ll do the talking” just about sums up this gutless, sorry excuse for a Prime Minister.  As ever, politicians start wars, and Armies finish them.  So while the Tories probably think he’s great simply because he’s one of their own, to the men and women who really do fight for this country that comment probably sums up what makes him a total waste of time, effort and rations. 
    Lets see if he’s got the guts to put that little line in a letter to one of the bereaved families – assuming of course that task isn’t also beneath him.  Lets see if he’s got the guts to use that little line when he next needs a little PR boost by summoning all his ‘bravery’ to undertake a photo opportunity with the military.  Lets see if he’s got the guts to shoot his mouth off about how tuff it is for him and his billionaire chums compared to those who are truly on the front line. 
    All in it together?  Yeah right.  “Being Strong”.  Yeah right.” Being tough”.  Yeah right.  Do us all a favour Cameron, at least have the humility to keep YOUR mouth shut while real professionals sort out problems that you and your kind cause through your self-serving activities every single day.  You’re a shoddy, spineless, amateurish yet all too predictable disgrace to the office you hold.  Given the fact that your cosy little existence relies on tireless efforts on numerous front lines it might make some sense if you learnt to shut the hell up, remember you’re in ‘public service’ and not ‘self-service’ and learnt to keep your runaway mouth in check.

  • Mike

    Great rant. Perfectly summed up the slimiest PM we’ve ever had.

  • Duncan Phipp-MacIntyre

    Another addendum – 4 p.m. (The Staggers, New Statesman, lead me to Liberal Cospiracy)

    B.T. Employing disabled people good for business.

    (As if the only thing that matters is money, but anyway…)

  • Yes very good point, there is also a massive problem in rural areas, for one the CPNs have too much ground to cover within their assigned boundaries and their case folders bursting with too many clients, secondly waiting times are exsessivly long, a service user and freind of mine in Wales has just had a letter to say that he cannot see a specialist or counciller for 8 weeks. He is on medication from his GP in the mean time, but cleary he sounds in crisis……he fears he wont make the 8 weeks, unless of course he does something drastic to force the attention he badly needs so that he can try to get a firm foot down on an already rationed recovery road!

  • ronnie

    Can you imagine the headlines if Blair or Brown had said ‘you do the fighting and I’ll do the talking’?

  • Robert

    Well, if journalists can’t find it in themselves to press the PM on the fate of psychiatric/mental health provision, at least the Royal College of Psychiatrists have put in their six penny worth.

    Suggesting an upper limit of 1.5 units of alcohol a day for those aged over 65.

    It tickles me that over on the BBC website, where I read the item, “us lot” under the line are screaming blue murder about Nu-Lab Nanny State and it All Being Labour’s Fault…..the fact the RCPsych are suggesting the elderly should drink less booze for the sake of everybody, including reducing the cost to the taxpayer, goes completely over their indignant alcohol craving heads.

  • Ehtch

    In postively for future things in being barking, ahem!, has been said the reason for the success of the human race. The negative aspect does rise it’s head now and again though, and sends people it represents up a dead end. Take Adolf for instance, fairly recently….

  • Ehtch

    Talking of Adolf, take it away Franzl and Melanie. Enjoy, ja!

  • Ehtch

    For the x-factor/someone somewheer has talent generaration with modern square eyes, there is this, and Franzl afterwards not up some alpine hill, singing,
    a yankie, yes, truthfully,

    and glorious Franzl, indoors,

  • Ehtch

    Might as well post this again –  Alpine people and nations around there, with remnants in the UK, in, ahem!, Wales and south-west and north-west England, and south of Scotland too. Now you know what is wrong with us – we are different to you north of the Rhine sorts!

  • Tim

    I’ve been seeing an NHS mental health team since last November and am still waiting for my first appointment for meaningful therapy. Since November I have seen my care coordinator four times, a psychiatrist once (for assessment only), a psychotherapist once (for assessment for the therapy course I’m waiting to start) and an occupational therapist once. I’m in Cambs and my NHS Trust is one of the higher performers, I believe. The team are doing their best, apart from the occupational therapist who listened to me talk about my hopes and desires for employment in a particular field, then responded with, “Telesales is good money”. But they can’t give me the therapy I really need.

    I’ve been struggling with depression and an anxiety disorder since 1990 and have been recently diagnosed with avoidant personality disorder, which is horribly difficult to treat. I feel washed up, scrap heaped and beyond help at 46…

  • Ehtch

    Wie geht? My life is doing alright too, danke.

  • Ehtch

    Ladytron, mainly from Liverpool, produced an excellent track about this old living alpine hill living thing in old semi-memorised times , a few years back. It is, frankly, to me, is brilliant. Enjoy, if it is up your alley or mountain valley,

  • Ehtch

    Llyd y Fan Fach, near AHEM!, Charlie has his new Carmarthenshire digs, for some reason, but I do, because he chases magic, and he will find it in Carmarthenshire,

  • Ehtch

    My twenty year old daughter, in her mark one town marriage, no doubt it will no turn as, as we are, pathetic?

  • Ehtch

    Alison Goldfrapp the marvellous?

  • Gilliebc

    Tim, you’ve made it to 46 that’s an achievement in itself!  No one is beyond help and everyone is important in the grand scheme of things.
    What the hell is avoidant personality disorder?  How the proffesionals like to label things.  It was my experience that most so-called pros. just spouted the latest theory and had no real understanding whatsoever of the complex problems of human beings.  I personally found reading a great help, the books of the late Robert Laing in particular being spot-on.
    However, the writings of men such as Freud and Yeoung/Yung, (not sure how to spell that name) were in my “humble” opinion crap! others may well disagree.  I hope you will soon be feeling much better.  I know only too well that it takes time, but patience has its own reward, eventually.

  • Tim

    To be honest I don’t have any confidence at all in psychotherapy, but over 20 years on anti-depressants, which I weaned myself off last summer, did me no good whatsoever either.

    Not a lot of hope for me, I’m afraid, on the health front. All about to be made worse when I inevitably lose my benefits, despite sacrificing ten years of my life, on top of my mental illness, by looking after elderly parents until their deaths.

    As the song goes, “What a wonderful world”.

  • Gilliebc

    Oh dear Tim, I’m not surpised you are depressed!  It is not surprising either that so many people are also suffering from depression.  I think that depression is a perfectly natural reaction to adverse living conditions and also the fact that there is little or nothing the ordinary person can actually do about it!  We are caught in a trap.
    Were you able to try other types of anti-depressants, I wonder?  I’ve said on this web-site before that SSRI’s suit me personally very well ineed.
    Other types had no effect on me whatsoever though.
    The final sentence of your post “what a wonderful world” says it all really, but in two different ways to me.  The first being that the natural world is very wonderful indeed e.g. “who needs diamonds when one can watch the sun glittering on a clear blue sea”  However, the natural world and the real world are two different things and it’s nigh on impossible to enjoy one without the essentials of the materialistic man-made money driven “real” world that we have to inhabit and be at the mercy of those who have power over us.  It shouldn’t be this way in an ideal world.
    Surely you must be entitled to some benefits Tim?  Don’t be afraid to use the appeal process.  I read somewhere recently that nearly all entitled claiments have to appeal in order to get what they are entitled to!  They certainly don’t make it easy, probably hoping to put people off!