Mental health is given “second class status” by the Government, one of the region’s top psychiatric consultants has warned in a letter to David Cameron.
Dr Andrew Moore, clinical director and consultant for the Devon Partnership NHS Trust, which provides care to people with mental health problems, says psychiatric care is “not a great priority” for ministers.
The warning came as former Health Minister Ben Bradshaw, MP for Exeter, told the House of Commons professionals fear mental health services are “in collapse” – underlined by vulnerable people from the county being sent to other parts of the country for care because of a shortage of beds.
The Western Morning News has previously reported concern among professionals at mental funding cuts being deeper than at hospitals which is leading to growing patient waiting lists.
In August last year, the WMN reported how young people with mental health problems in Devon have been sent to units in Hull, Newcastle and Lancashire, while several youngsters suffering from the most serious problems such as violent behaviour or life-threatening eating disorders have been admitted to adult psychiatric units.
In a letter to the Prime Minister, Dr Moore questions the Government’s support for “parity of esteem” – which refers to mental health and physical health being valued equally – that he suggests is “not a great priority for at least some parts of the coalition Government”.
“Mental health is too frequently given second-class status when compared with physical health,” he writes
“For example, recent revised funding formulas in the healthcare economy have been unfavourably weighted against mental health services compared to physical and acute care services which, I would suggest, will actually widen the gap, not close it.
“I would like to recognise and acknowledge those in the wider health and political circles who are working hard to fight for better mental health services and resources.
“Our experience ‘on the ground’, would suggest that these services need much more concrete support, backing and equity of resource before we can start to believe and feel that ‘parity of esteem’ for mental health is a reality, rather than rhetoric or an unachievable aspiration.”
Today, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt was questioned on mental health as he unveiled an independent review on creating an open and honest reporting culture in the NHS.
Labour MP Mr Bradshaw said: “An Exeter psychiatric nurse of more than 20 years’ standing wrote to me in despair this week saying that ‘mental health services are in collapse’, and that patients are regularly placed in ‘life threatening’ situations or sent as far away as Bradford because there are no beds locally.
“Vulnerable people are waiting a shocking three months for the co-ordination of their care. How dare the Secretary of State come to the House today and claim that our mental health services are not in crisis?”
Mr Hunt replied: “There are real pressures in our mental health services, but he should recognise the progress that the Government have made.
“That includes doubling the money going into talking therapies, having global summits on dementia and putting a massive amount of money towards raising the profile of dementia in this country and across the globe, and legislating for parity of esteem between mental and physical health – something that never happened under the previous Government.
“There is a lot of work to do, but I think he should give credit where it is due.”