In their election manifesto, the Conservative Government reaffirmed the commitment made under the Coalition that Mental Health Services would be put on a par with physical health. On top of this, the Conservatives stated that they would ensure that there are therapists in every part of the country providing treatment.
The manifesto stated that funding for Mental Health care would increase, though no details were given to actually support this bold statement. Indeed, according to the BBC in March 2015, the budgets for Mental Health trusts in England fell by more than 8% over the course of the Conservative Lib Dem Coalition – 8% may not seem like a great deal, but it equates to around £600m. According to Paul Farmer, Chief Exec of charity ‘Mind’, “the treatment gap for Mental Health is huge- 75% of people with Mental Health problems get no help at all… the next government will need to hit the ground running on Mental Health. We need to see a permanent increase in the NHS Mental Health budget of at least £1bn if we are to reverse the damage caused by years of neglect and recent cuts”.
5 days ago, David Cameron proposed 7 day hospital services and 7 day extended hours GP access, with 5000 more GP’s. Whilst this would be fantastic for me – it is a nightmare trying to get a doctor’s appointment when working full time and a good one hour away from the doctor’s surgery – where is the money for this going to come from? NHS England’s Five Year Forward View called for £8bn more annually (along with efficiency savings of £22bn) but, according to The King’s Fund, whilst “a seven day NHS is the right ambition… delivering it by 2020 will be a tall order”, £8bn “will not pay for new initiatives such as seven day working”.
Personally, I attended my GP for my anxiety disorder as I was not aware of any other services available for Mental Health issues. It appears that I am not alone in this, with around 90% of people with Mental Health problems receiving all of their treatment from primary care services rather than a specialist Mental Health service.
With regard to Mental Health specifically, the Conservatives touched upon “enforcing access standards” and increasing funding, but they went no further.
For now, then, we are left a little in the dark and it remains to be seen what will happen with our Mental Health Services. What I do know is that services for Mental Health need to be more readily available and that people with Mental Health issues need to feel confident that they are able to access such services without judgement. Clearly, there is disparity between the number of people who have a mental health issue and the number of people who get treatment or seek help for a mental health issue – In Britain, it is estimated that only around one quarter of people with a Mental Health problem receive ongoing treatment. With longer GP opening hours, more people with mental health issues will have the opportunity to attend their GP and get the help that they need. But is it extra hours that we need, or more confidence so that we are comfortable telling people about our mental health issues with no worry of stigma being attached?