Nurses have been asked to stand together to fight cuts to mental health services by former government advisor Alastair Campbell.
Addressing the Royal College of Nursing annual congress in Liverpool this week, he said mental illness was at the “base of the pile” in the “disease prestige league table”, and this was reflected in funding and public opinion.
But he warned cutting mental services was a false economy and would lead to greater pressure on the public sector – those suffering will need even more complicated and costly support.
Mr Campbell said personal experience had made him a champion for people with mental health issues.
He told congress about his own mental breakdown in 1986 and spoke of how the support of his employers, family and skilful mental health nursing staff made it possible for him to recover.
He said: “Depression is an illness just like any other…a decline in the nation’s mental health budget will lead to a decline in the nations’ mental health.”
Speaking about the current government’s reform agenda, Mr Campbell said there was “huge anger” and that “nurses are pretty fired up”.
He said he hoped the government’s “pause” in pushing through the Health and Social Care Bill meant the changes may not go forward.
He said: “They are getting a flavour of just how much opposition there is, but actually I think what they are trying to do is park it up for now, get through the local elections and bring it back.”
He stressed that nursing staff and the RCN needed to keep piling on the pressure to stop more cuts being made.