TORY mental health strategy was ripped apart yesterday as a “utopian vision” and mere “happy soundbites.”
Campaigners, unions and politicians closely involved in the sector condemned the government’s record on mental healthcare.
And they said the Tories’ pie-inthe-sky plan would fail without an immediate cash injection that should be separate from overall NHS funds to support psychiatric services — currently “in breakdown.”
The responses came after Prime Minister Theresa May grandly outlined her blueprint for a “shared society” and vowed to transform negative attitudes to mental health issues in a speech at the Charity Commission.
Mental health charity Sane chief executive Marjorie Wallace said: “We welcome what Theresa May outlines — but it is a utopian vision which may change attitudes in many years to come.
“Without ringfenced money now for the psychiatric services which are in breakdown, the stigma she seeks to reduce will remain, lives will continue to be lost for patients turned away from care, refused admission to depleted psychiatric units and left insufficiently supported and often unvisited by underresourced community teams.”
Labour mental health spokeswoman Barbara Keeley condemned the government’s record on mental health as “one of failure,” adding that we have “yet to see their rhetoric become reality.”
Measures announced by Ms May included investment in community care and £67.7 million, which would be reallocated from existing NHS cash for digitisation, to fund online self-diagnosis and symptom checking.
She also revealed plans to strengthen links between NHS specialists and schools because mental health issues have been shown to disproportionately affect young people.
Ms May has asked the Care Quality Commission to conduct a countrywide review of services for children and teenagers and appointed Lord Stevenson and mental health charity Mind chief executive Paul Farmer to review support for stressed-out workers.
Teaching union NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates welcomed the recognition of the role schools can play. But she warned that Tory cuts to council budgets affecting health and education have taken a heavy toll on the support available.
And Royal College of Psychiatrists president Professor Sir Simon Wessely urged Ms May “to continue to work towards hard and not soft parity between mental and physical health.”
Unison Wales organiser Carmen Bezzina said the “gaping holes” in the government’s plan show that it has no awareness of how Conservative austerity measures have harmed people in the past six years.
And GMB accused Ms May of being in a “dangerous state of denial” as the union pointed to the axing of almost 5,000 mental health beds since 2010.
GMB national secretary Rehana Azam warned: “Happy soundbites and small measures are all well and good — but what we desperately need is a cash injection for our chronically underfunded mental health services.”
Shadow minister without portfolio Andrew Gwynne blamed the Tories for their “dismal” record.
He said: “Spending on mental health fell by £600 million in the last parliament, money intended for children’s mental health goes to other priorities and there are thousands fewer mental health nurses than when the Tories came to power.”
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