Mental health care: will the Tories deliver on their promises?
Conservatives have promised to make mental health a priority, but doctors and campaigners are unconvinced
People suffering from mental health problems are not being given adequate care because the system is struggling to cope, the Care Quality Commission has warned.
In a damning report, the regulator revealed that almost half of all patients in need of urgent medical care did not receive the help they needed and many were faced with a "lack of compassion" from A&E staff.
"The report will not come as a surprise to anyone who has found themselves in crisis or who is involved in supporting people when they are at their most unwell," said Paul Farmer, chief executive of mental health charity Mind.
"We take for granted that when we have a physical health emergency we will get the help we need urgently," he told the BBC. "It should be no different for mental health."
The government has promised to ensure that mental and physical health conditions are given equal priority, but campaigners and health care workers warn that they are unlikely to deliver on many of their campaign promises on mental health.
What did the Tories promise to do in their manifesto?
- Increase mental health spending
- Improve access to talking therapy and ensure therapists are available in "every part of the country" for all of those who need it
- Introduce new waiting time standards
- Ensure women have access to mental health support during and after pregnancy and strengthen the health visiting plan for new mothers
- Honour the Military Covenant by ensuring veterans suffering from mental health problems receive proper care
- Provide health and community based places of safety for people with mental health problems who are detained by police
The party ran into controversy during its election campaign earlier this year when one its parliamentary candidates suggested people with mental health problems should wear colour-coded wristbands to identify their conditions. The Tories were also criticised for making vague promises and failing to commit to specific targets.
"Overall the Conservative manifesto seems preoccupied with mental health problems as a 'burden'; something to be curtailed as soon as possible, with a return to gainful employment as the ultimate goal," says Mental Health Chat. "That is unless you happen to be a new mother or an ex-serviceman, in which case you are deemed worthy of treatment in your own right."
Will they deliver on these promises?
Care minister Alistair Burt said the government has already begun tackling the mental health crisis with new treatment targets and extra funding. "Improving mental health care is my priority," he said.
But campaigners and mental health experts are unconvinced. In a letter to the Daily Mirror in the run-up to election, more than 100 nurses, doctors and councillors warned that another Tory government would put mental health services at serious risk.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who once said he didn't understand how Alastair Campbell could be depressed as it looked like he had "a great life", is not known as a great champion for mental health care, says The Guardian. "There have already been concerns raised by experts about whether the money pledged to mental health in the Conservative party’s pre-election budget will see the light of day," says the newspaper.
Liberal Democrat Norman Lamb, who campaigned for better mental health services in the coalition government, agrees, arguing that the Tories "lack the commitment" to make the necessary investment in mental health care.