Queen’s Speech Debate: Mental Health

28th June 2017
Anne Main calls for better integration between the school and child mental health systems to help young people suffering from mental health problems.

 

It is delightful to see you back in your rightful place, Madam Deputy Speaker. It is also a delight to follow the hon. Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Dr Cameron), because I too want to talk about mental health services, particularly those for children.

It is sadly the case that many young people have very troubled existences in school, and it sometimes takes quite a long while to get a diagnosis that they are suffering from mental health problems. I am sure that over the years all colleagues will have seen desperate parents coming into their surgeries to raise this issue. As a parent myself, I can honestly say that there is nothing more desperate than feeling that one’s child is friendless, singled out, left out, and somehow missing out on what should be one of the happy periods of their lives.

I suggest to the Secretary of State that as we go forward with child mental services we look at how we can seamlessly integrate them with the schooling that children are receiving, or often missing out on as a result of their conditions. Parents who come to visit my surgery tell me that too often there are two silos where they are raising the same issues and problems—the school system and the child mental health services system—and they are having to do so over and over again because there is no transference of knowledge about the individual’s case. Parents have been put in the dreadful situation of being pursued by a school because it thought that the young person was truanting, when in reality they were unable to leave their room because they could not escape the utter mental trauma they were experiencing. It took a huge amount of work to ensure that that young person got some degree of education at home.

The way forward for many of our services is for them to integrate with others. I make the plea that child and adolescent mental health services be better hooked up with educational services. Different groups of professionals should not be prevented from discussing matters with each other, because that makes the situation worse. If a child or young person is experiencing a period of ill health, bad health or a crisis, that information should be seamlessly conveyed to the school. I know that there are all sorts of issues to do with protection of privacy, but if a young person’s opportunities to gain educational qualifications are slipping away and it is impossible for them to be home schooled or receive tutor support at home because of a lack of dialogue, we need to address that. That is why I am pleased about the proposed Green Paper, which will address how families can access information about mental health and treatment for loved ones, and how the Mental Health Act has been implemented on the ground.

We should look at the issue across the board, including the role of pharmacies. Many of us spoke in the debate on that subject in January. There is an argument that pharmacies should be encouraged to do more and not just be paid for the number of prescriptions they dispense. I repeat that we need to bring different services together. Some hon. Members have talked about loneliness and others about dementia. I am absolutely certain that pharmacies can play a part in the seamless transition I have mentioned by providing not only drugs and other forms of care but a listening service. I want pharmacies to do much more and for them to be encouraged to integrate more with other aspects of social and GP-led care in areas such as mine, where the National Pharmacy Association has its headquarters.

 

The hon. Lady has outlined the importance of pharmacies. Does she agree that money should be set aside for frontline GP services? One way of doing that would be for them to work closer with pharmacies to ensure that they can give an all-inclusive picture when someone visits their GP.

 

The hon. Gentleman makes a valid point. Some people have described the Queen’s Speech as thin, but I think it touches on key points and gives us a chance to flesh things out and submit our views on what should happen. I want pharmacies to provide more support to other services than they do at present.

The West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust, which provides acute care services in my area, has been struggling for a considerable period, but I pay tribute to it, because it is now turning around some of its problems. I visited it recently and I am pleased to say that it now has a complete hold on hospital-acquired infections and has refurbished and upgraded some wards. The Herts Valleys clinical commissioning group has also launched a new community perinatal mental health team, which is starting to work with families. I believe that visionary approaches can be taken, using current resources, to ensure that we get the most out of our national health services.

It is a shame that this place focuses on the negative. I was frankly shocked to hear the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Dr Whitford)—this is how I understand what she said, but she can correct me if I am wrong—seem to support the claim by the shadow Chancellor, the right hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell), that families and individuals had been “murdered” by political decisions over recent decades. That was an atrocious comment for him to make in public at Glastonbury.

 

rose

 

I will give way in a moment, because I am sure the hon. Lady wants to respond. In these difficult times, it is deeply irresponsible to whip up resentment in political groups—the shadow Chancellor said that this had happened over decades—when we do not have the results. Building Research Establishment in my constituency is doing the panel testing, and we should have a period of reflective calm. There are still unidentified remains in that building, and it is deeply irresponsible to pass judgment on what caused the fire. I do not think it should ever be acceptable to suggest murder without any evidence—it is a very harsh thing to accuse people of.

 

rose—

 

I will give way to the hon. Lady, as I am sure she would like to distance herself from the concept of murder.

 

If the hon. Lady had paid any attention, she would recognise that I did not use that term, and I talked about Governments. The fire in Irvine in 1999— 18 years ago—identified the issues with cladding and sprinklers. That is many Governments ago and a long time in which this place has not taken sufficient action on tower blocks.

 

In this period of deep distress and anguish, when many things remain to be found out and many lessons to be learned, it behoves us all not to use this as a political football. I hope that in future we will stop doing so.

I am delighted that the Queen’s Speech has a real focus on mental health, but I make a particular plea to the Secretary of State to work with education services and child and adolescent mental health services to ensure that young people do not end up, during troubled periods in their lives, missing opportunities to gain the qualifications and make the friendships and relationships they need. It is a tragedy that young people feel so isolated. When they reach adulthood, the continuity of services drops off a cliff, with no pick-up from adult mental health services. We should take seriously the need for a seamless transition to wellness for young people, and I am pleased that the Government have decided to spearhead that campaign.

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