Vital for services to give best mental health care

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Michelle Donelan Column 08 September 16 Mental Health

Integration, collaboration and joined-up working are all buzz words for the concept of closer partnership between health and social care, mental health services, the police and local authorities. This is familiar rhetoric that we often hear; but all too often fail to deliver.

Last week we saw a failure in ‘joined-up’ local healthcare system, the consequences of which meant that a desperately ill young woman from Wiltshire was forced to sleep in the back of a police car waiting for a safe mental health bed to become available.

What is clear is that when someone is experiencing a mental health crisis, just as with a physical illness, they need the right care, in the right place and importantly from the right person. The police do a fantastic job keeping us safe and in preventing and solving crime, but they are not the appropriate service to support someone who has complex health needs. All too often they are faced with dealing with someone who is extremely distressed, unpredictable or risks doing serious harm to themselves.

Just as if someone had a physical illness or injury they would expect, and get, care in an appropriate hospital – those with mental illness should be no different. One in four of us will experience a mental health problem, it is not something that we can ignore.

In recent years we have made monumental strides in the way that we treat mental illness in the UK but we must go further. This week I will meet with not only the young woman and her family for whom our mental health care system failed, but have also met with our local NHS mental health provider and speak with the police about what more can be done to properly care for people in crisis.

Last month the government announced that the Avon and Wiltshire mental health trust, who run mental health services in our county, successfully bid for a share of a £15m fund to improve provision of mental health places of safety. This is a welcome step but clearly will not fully support the needs of the nearly 2500 Wiltshire residents currently diagnosed with a mental health condition.

One of my personal priorities is to ensure parity between mental and physical health constitutions, especially for those most in need – those experiencing crisis and in need of urgent help.

Whether we are talking about what happens when someone is picked up during a mental health crisis by the police and taken to a police station inappropriately, or someone who tries to get in touch with crisis services, or what happens at hospitals, we have to have an effective emergency mental health response system in place. This is not happening at the moment and I will continue to work with the Government to ensure that it is delivered for the benefit of all of us.

I hold surgeries every Friday as well as regular meetings throughout the constituency. To book an appointment please call 01249 704465 or email michelle.donelan.mp@parliament.uk