Mental health services face long road to reform

One in four people will have a mental health problem in their lifetime Credit: Mind
  • ITV News correspondent Richard Pallot writes:

One in four of us will have a mental health problem in our lifetime, and the truth is, as it stands today, many of us will never get the treatment we need.


Well, a new report lays bare that services across much of England are understaffed, underfunded and in many instances, not fit for purpose.

Suicide levels up by 10 percent, new mothers with depression failed, children treated hundreds of miles from home, three quarters of us with issues never even treated - just a few headlines from an exhaustive list of failing parts within this sector.

Most hospitals are unable to offer 24/7 mental health services, despite mental health problems being most likely to present themselves during the night.

And at a time when traditional Accident and Emergency departments are in turmoil, it is sobering to think this study concludes the situation in the mental health sector is far, far worse.

  • Simon Stevens said the NHS was backing the report's recommendations

Indeed, the report's authors go as far as to question when, if ever, mental health will achieve parity with physical healthcare.

Of course any changes will take an awful lot of money, and a lot of new staff.

There will be £1 billion extra available annually, but I couldn't even get a ballpark figure from officials when I asked how many more healthcare professionals might be needed.

A third more was one guess - and chief executive of NHS England, Simon Stevens, wouldn't be drawn on whether there was enough cash to achieve even that.

Paul Farmer, chief executive of the mental health charity Mind, led this study, and believes there are "pressing and urgent needs, with very few people ever getting the right treatment at the right time."

  • Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, led the new study

Indeed, he says three quarters of us will never get what we need, which contributes to the economic loss annually of £105 billion arising from poor mental health in England alone.

How can we be sure the recommendations are accurate? Well, 20,000 experts, health professionals and patients have been consulted.

One of those was a lady called Laura. She suffered severe depression but was lucky enough to find crisis treatment at her lowest point, and admits she wouldn't be alive today if she hadn't.

But she also believes mental health issues are still "swept under the carpet" somewhat, and that there are people walking past you along the street everyday who should be in a hospital bed.

  • Laura believes mental health issues are often 'swept under the carpet'

Prime Minister David Cameron will announce new initiatives later today.

He says he is "committed to working towards putting mental and physical health care on an equal footing, and that if you are struggling with a mental health condition, you will get the help and support you need".

But given his own task force lays some of the blame at his government's door, it's clear any changes will hardly have begun before Cameron leaves number 10 - and it will fall to future prime ministers to find a way to transform this ailing and failing sector.