GPs have joined politicians and celebrities in calling for increased spending on mental health ahead of the Government’s spending review this month.
RCGP chair Dr Maureen Baker and former RCGP chair Professor Clare Gerada, a GP in Lambeth and medical director of the NHS Practitioner Health Programme (PHP), are among over 200 high-profile signatories backing the call, such as Lord of the Rings actor Sir Ian McKellan, TV comedy actors Miranda Hart and Matt Lucas and Trainspotting director Danny Boyle, architect of the NHS-focused London 2012 Olympic Games opening ceremony.
The Equality for Mental Health Campaign has been launched by Liberal Democrat MP and former care minister Norman Lamb, former Tony Blair aid Alastair Campbell and Conservative MP Andrew Mitchell, who said they are ’strongly persuaded that sustained investment in mental health services will lead to significant returns for the Exchequer’.
Within a list of ten demands, campaigners call on the Government to put into practice pledges for parity of esteem between mental and physical health by ending ‘financial incentives’ within the NHS which ‘discriminate against mental health’.
It says that ‘whenever resources are under pressure, mental health is the first to lose out’.
Referring to recently introduced waiting times standard for talking therapies under IAPT, it adds: ’Until this April there were no maximum waiting times for treatment for mental ill health, and we urge the Government to use the Spending Review to show how these will be implemented and extended to cover all ages and all mental health services’.
Introducing an online petition for the public to sign, campaigners wrote: ’We, the undersigned, have joined together to mount a cross-party, cross-society campaign aimed at persuading the Government to help reduce the suffering of those with mental ill health by increasing investment into the provision of mental health services.
’As ministers make final decisions on the Spending Review, we urge them to treat mental health equally with physical health. We ask for the same right to timely access to evidence based treatment as those with physical health problems.’
House of Commons Health Committee chair, Conservative MP and former GP Dr Sarah Wollaston, who is also among signatories, said: ’Legislating for “parity of esteem” for mental health was widely welcomed but now we need to make sure that warm words translate into action and know who will be held to account if that does not happen in practice.’
Latest official figures on IAPT up to the end of June this year showed that, nationally, new waiting targets – for 75% of patients to be treated within six weeks and 95% within 18 weeks – which were mandated by the Department of Health from April, are already being met.
However, waiting times continue to vary markedly across CCGs, while original IAPT key performance measures – for the average waiting time to fall within 28 days and for 50% of patients to recover – are still not being met.
Responding to the campaign, health secretary Jeremy Hunt said: ‘We fully welcome this campaign and the attention it brings to an area in which we have invested more money than ever before.’