Government must prove it's serious about mental health care

Sir Kevin Barron MP
Sir Kevin Barron MP

I sympathise with anyone affected by Parkinson’s disease and I pay tribute to Parkinson’s UK for the vital work it does in funding research, writes Sir Kevin Barron MP.

The charity has found that more than half of all people living with the disease have experienced depression and/or anxiety, yet just 11 per cent had seen a mental health professional.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Parkinson’s report, Mental Health Matters Too, highlights the difficulties that people with Parkinson’s face in accessing high-quality mental health care.

Mental and physical health services operate in isolation, which often leads to disconnected care.

Clinicians are experiencing problems accessing patients’ notes and there is poor communication between services. I am concerned by reports that people living with Parkinson’s are waiting months and in some cases years before seeing a professional after their mental health problem was first identified.

The Government has said it is aware of the APPG’s recommendations and that NHS England is working with the Neurological Alliance in support of the new national Neurology Advisory Group, which is considering ways to reduce variation in care and drive improvements.

SEE ALSO: Patient care will suffer unless NHS staffing crisis is tackled now.

However, I am concerned and disappointed at the Government’s record on mental health.

Despite repeated promises to give mental health the same priority as physical health, mental health trusts have less money to spend on patient care in real terms than they did in 2012.

Underfunding is leading to delays for people who are trying to access services. If the Government is to be taken seriously, it must increase spending on services and ring-fence budgets to ensure funding reaches the frontline and people get the support they need.