The Labour party has pledged to improve mental health services – particularly for children, which it claims have been “damaged” by the current governement - if it wins the election in May.
Party leader Ed Miliband said Labour would ensure all NHS staff receive mental health training in the future and that patients with complex physical and mental health conditions would be given a single point of contact for their care.
He also pledged to increase the proportion of mental health funding spent on children to reduce the demand on services as young people become adults.
“We will only ensure the NHS can survive the very real funding pressures it faces if we stop… stripping back preventative services”
Labour’s 10-year plan for the NHS, due to be published later this month, will contain more detail on these and other key measures to integrate mental and physical health provision with social care, added Mr Miliband.
The Labour party leader was speaking ahead of this afternoon’s publication of a report by a mental health taskforce led by Barts Health NHS Trust chair Stephen O’ Brien, commissioned in 2012.
The report is expected to highlight that just 6% of the mental health budget is spent on children when the majority of adult mental illness begins before the age of 18.
Mr Miliband said his party’s plans for mental health would reverse the “damage” done to child mental health services under the current government.
“Good mental health care should be central to health ambitions for the UK, but this can’t be achieved when mental health services are pared back”
The party claimed the services had been “stripped back” in recent years and that a growing number of young people were being placed in adult wards or sent to hospital at great distance from their homes as a result of bed shortages.
Labour said it would also expand talking therapies, introducing a maximum waiting-time standard of 28 days so that 80% of children and young people gain access to these services within this time.
Mr Miliband said: “We will only ensure the NHS can survive the very real funding pressures it faces if we stop making false economies by stripping back preventative services and start making smart investments in early intervention and support.”
The Royal College of Nursing has welcomed the Labour pledge but warned that short term funding cuts and a lack of investment in mental health nurses could stop the party’s ambitions from being realised.
RCN general secretary and chief executive Peter Carter said: “The Labour party is right to recognise that early intervention in mental health is the key to keeping people well and preventing more serious problems in the long term.
“Children in particular, where their mental health needs are recognised, can be effectively treated. This requires services to work together to identify those at risk and to reassure children that they can ask for help.”
He added: “Good mental health care should be central to health ambitions for the UK, but this can’t be achieved when mental health services are pared back and are the first casualties of short-term cutbacks.”