Mental Health

Peter Dowd (Bootle) (Lab): Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker.

“There they stand, isolated, majestic, imperious, brooded over by the gigantic water-tower and chimney combined, rising unmistakable and daunting out of the countryside—the asylums which our forefathers built with such immense solidity to express the notions of their day.”

Who would want to go back to that description of the old county asylums by Enoch Powell, the then Minister of Health, in a speech in 1961?

The proposals will set the country on a path of integrated community services for people with mental health issues, with an emphasis on the hospital as the place of last resort. No one doubts the complexity of the issue, but there is a real danger we will have a system that does not do one thing or the other. On the one hand, mental health hospitals are struggling to cope with demand for in-patient beds; on the other hand, community services are also straining to cope. There is a symbiotic relationship that feeds off the gradual inability of the other to cope with demand, despite the best efforts of the staff in those services, such as my colleagues in the 5 Boroughs Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, the staff of Mersey Care NHS Trust in my area, and charity and local authority workers.

What would happen if we did not have carers? We need to give them more support—concrete support—not warm words. I am not pointing the finger at the Government. We have gone beyond that. We genuinely have to get down to the issue. However, they are the Government, and they have a significant responsibility to get to grips with this burgeoning and growing crisis. I hope that the Minister has the vision to do so.

 

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