Leading Lawyer Reacts To Prime Minister’s Speech
Medical Negligence experts at national law firm Irwin Mitchell have praised the ‘long overdue’ commitment from Theresa May to overhaul mental health care whilst warning that without an increase in funding many issues will remain unresolved.
In a speech to the Charity Commission, Theresa May has promised to tackle the “hidden injustice” of mental illness and announced extra training for teachers, online self-checking for those with concerns and a review of services for children and teenagers.
An extra £1bn has been provided to the NHS for mental health services but in today’s announcement the Prime Minister did not pledge any additional money to tackle the range of current issues.
According to research by the government, one in four people has a mental disorder, with the younger generation the most heavily affected.
Mrs May announced a number of new measures including employers and organisations given additional training to support staff who need to take time off and every secondary school being offered mental health first aid training.
Mental health campaigner Lord Stevenson and Paul Farmer, chief executive of the charity Mind, have been appointed to carry out a review on improving support in the workplace.
There will also be a review of the health debt form, under which patients are charged up to £300 by a GP for documentation to prove they have mental health issues.
Ayse Ince, a specialist medical negligence lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, has been calling for sweeping changes when it comes to mental health care and sees today’s announcement as a positive one which reinforces the challenges ahead.
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“Children and young people are suffering more and more from mental ill-health and it is crucial that we tackle this issue nationally and across all age groups, which makes today’s speech both long overdue and hugely significant.
“We welcome plans to tackle the subject head on in our schools to teach the youth of today that it is important to communicate and speak out to help break the stigma that plagues our society.
“However, funding for mental health services are being cut continuously both in hospitals and in the community which has devastating consequences, causing our most vulnerable to feel even more isolated. Family members are unsupported, unheard and left caring for their loved one with often very little support and no access to crisis intervention.
So whilst today’s words from Theresa May are welcome, what we haven’t seen is an increase in resources for the number of beds that we need in specialist mental health units, nor an increase in staff numbers that we need in hospitals and in the community, or an answer to the desperate funding crisis for training.
“It’s so sad to see time after time at inquests that suicides could have been avoided but for the lack of resources and or training in staff. People with the most complex mental ill health are often cared for by those who aren’t qualified or not appropriately trained and it is left to our voluntary sectors and families to pick up the pieces.
“Whilst online therapy will help whilst people are waiting to see specialists, this is going to be devastating for those who need urgent care and who are in crisis.
“We need more funding to create a better national service so there are well-resourced units with staff who understand mental health so that our patients are safe, so that risk assessments are done correctly and so that on discharge the vulnerable have metaphorical stabilisers to help them cope in the community.
“Today’s society and the influence of social media would suggest that no subject is taboo but sadly this isn’t true – there still remains a stigma around mental health. Many people simply don’t understand how complex an illness it can be, and the huge and potentially devastating impact it has on an individual, their family and friends.
“This needs to change and hopefully we will look back on today’s speech as steps in the right direction.”
Ayse Ince - Associate