Mental health is one of the biggest challenges we face: there needs to be a concerted focus on improving treatment, support and awareness of mental health, both in Bristol West and across the country. With an increasing demand on our mental health services it is absolutely essential to our future economy, society and the sustainability of our NHS that the necessary support and funding is provided.

NHS England is currently implementing The Five Year Forward View for Mental Health, which includes a series of actions for improving outcomes in mental health services. I welcome its ambition to achieve parity of esteem between mental and physical health for children, young people, adults and older people by 2020/21. At the 2015 general election I stood on a manifesto which included a commitment to make this a reality on the ground by giving mental health the same priority as physical health.

However, despite claims by the current Government that it is spending record levels on mental health care, independent analysis by the King’s Fund has revealed around 40% of mental health trusts have experienced reductions in their income. New data also shows that 57% of Clinical Commissioning Groups in England have reduced the amount they will spend on mental health during 2016/17. Despite promises to achieve parity of esteem between mental and physical health, the Government’s cuts to the NHS have led to real terms cuts to mental health services, while cuts to local authority budgets have also resulted in essential support services for mental health being lost. I am very concerned that funding for over-stretched mental health services is not reaching the frontline where it is so badly needed.

I believe we need to take a much more long-term approach to improving mental health services, including integrating mental and physical health provision with social care, providing training for all NHS staff that includes mental health and ensuring that mental health is at the centre of our NHS, not on the fringes. We also need to focus much more closely on prevention, early intervention and better support services – particularly for young people, as three quarters of adult mental illnesses begin before the age of 18.

Labour is working hard to prioritise mental health, and we have created a shadow cabinet-level post of Shadow Minister for Mental Health, to which we have appointed Barbara Keeley MP. There is no equivalent for this post in the Conservative Government’s Cabinet.

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