Opinion: Can Labour be trusted on mental health?
Posted on Liberal Democrat Voice By  | 21st November 2012 – 8:55 am

In my last two articles for Liberal Democrat Voice I wrote about the current under provision in mental health treatment in the country and why it is important that properly addressing mental health is brought into the political mainstream.

Thankfully in recent weeks this has started to happen. Of course there was Ed Miliband’s speech to the Royal College of Psychiatrists in which he spoke of the need for improved provision in mental health treatments across the country. Many people will of course welcome this state of affairs and it is encouraging if Miliband is intending to put improved mental health provision at the forefront of Labour’s health policy.

Unfortunately there is reason to be sceptical regarding Labour’s new position. As Norman Lamb pointed out in a recent article for this website, the last Labour Government

consistently treated mental health as a second class service: introducing an 18 week waiting time target for physical health but not for mental health and specifically excluding mental health users from the right to choose where, and by whom, you are treated. The absurd but inevitable result was a health service in which the bias towards physical health has been institutionalised, despite all the evidence demonstrating the fundamental importance of mental health.

Indeed. Can we really have any confidence, given, the Labour’ Party’s recent record of hypocrisy, that a Miliband led Government would make good on the statements made in his recent speech?

Thankfully Lib Dems, and those like me who suffer from anxiety and depression, can rest assured that our party has consistently made improved mental health provision a cornerstone of health policy in recent months and years.

Many have previously commended the excellent work which the previous Lib Dem Health Minister, Paul Burstow did regarding mental health treatment, and now this has been sealed by the publication of the first mandate between the Government and the NHS Commissioning Board.

It is a great relief to me that placing mental health care on a par with physical health care is now written in to the mandate, alongside ensuring better access to psychological therapies.

Since first going to my doctor at the end of July and asking for a referral to a talking therapies service I have not yet had my first session and will not start it until December 12th. This has already felt like too long, and I am someone who is not at the more serious end of those who suffer. I am sure there are many people who read this website, are in a far worse state than I am and who feel let down by the lack of treatment they receive on the NHS.

I hope that it is some consolation for those people that there are many in this party – including those who spoke at and moved the excellent motion at conference – who will continue to ensure that mental health treatment is not pushed to the sidelines, as it has consistently been by previous Tory and Labour Governments.

* Tim Purkiss is a party member from Somerset and blogs at Nation Discussion



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