Just a week ago an all party campaign to promote mental health was launched in Westminster. Our all party leader was Norman Lamb, the distinguished former Health Minister under the Coalition Government, supported by me for the Conservative Party and Alistair Campbell for the Labour Party.
I have always regarded mental health as an important issue ever since I first became Sutton’s MP and over recent years we have made progress locally, though not enough. Mental health is an issue which affects one in four people every year and we all know people who have suffered. For too long there has not been parity between the plight of those suffering from mental health and those with physical illnesses.
Our campaign has been backed by over 200 figures from across society when it was launched has now had over 86,920 people sign up.
Of course it is welcome news that the Government increased overall mental health funding to £11.7bn over the past year and pledged an extra £1.25bn for children's mental health in Spring this year.
However, more must be done to ensure that those suffering from mental illnesses have access to the same quality of care and can rely on swift turnaround in our hospitals and GP surgeries. I welcome the new targets set by our National Health Service to guarantee treatment within 18 weeks, the first time such targets have been introduced.
We also need to encourage more mental health practitioners to fill the top vacancies in order to ensure that patients receive the best care from the most able psychiatrists and consultants. By 2016, the Royal College of Psychiatrists aims to fill 95% of the core trainee psychiatrist posts and we should commend our practitioners up and down the country for the commendable and tireless work they do.
More importantly, it is up to each one of us to improve public attitudes to mental health and end the stigmatisation of those most vulnerable. The Government has made strides in this respect in the last Parliament. In 2012 the Health & Social Care Bill was passed clarifying, in law, that mental health should be treated equally to physical health. One year later, the Government enacted the Mental Health Act removing the last remnants of discrimination from law.
As more and more people sign up for this campaign, progress will build on progress. We have a real opportunity to ensure parity of treatment in this crucial area.
For more information visit www.time-to-change.org.uk