Lord Layard to call for cabinet minister for mental health

Peer behind "Improving Access to Psychological Therapies"

By Ian Birch

A Labour peer, whose report into the lack of availability of talking therapies on the NHS led to the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme, has this week, caledl for a cabinet minister for mental health.

Modern lecture theatreAccording to the London School of Economics (LSE) website, Lord Richard Layard said:

“Until the 1950s, there was little that could be done about mental illness, except tender, loving care. But in the 1950s spectacular discoveries were made in drugs for schizophrenia, for bipolar disorder and for depression and more recently for ADHD.

“Since the 1970s there have also been major discoveries in evidence-based methods of psychological therapy.

“Mental health should become the sixth pillar in the Welfare State. All the other pillars have their own cabinet minister and we will never get mental health taken seriously enough unless it has its own cabinet minister – a cabinet minister for mental health and social care within the Department of Health.

“Mental illness is not only the largest single illness among people of working age. It actually accounts for half of all disability among people of working age – as much as the combined effects of back pain, heart pain, pulmonary problems, diabetes, cancer and all the rest. And this is based on household surveys not on people claiming benefits.”

Statistics show that only 15% of NHS spending is on mental health care.  

Simon Lawton-Smith, Head of Policy at the Mental Health Foundation, said that, whilst calls for a mental health cabinet minister were not new, it was important that mental health policy is joined up across all government departments.

He said:

“The call for a Cabinet Minister with cross-departmental responsibility for mental health is not a new one. Mental health is not simply an issue for health and social care services. Poor mental health costs the country an estimated £100 billion every year, causing problems in communities, schools, on the shop floor and in the office, and imposing a significant burden on our welfare benefits and criminal justice systems.

It is therefore essential that mental health policy is joined up across all Government Departments at cabinet level. This is particularly so at a time of recession when there are increasing pressures on people’s mental health and in light of significant public service cuts. The Department of Health’s new mental health strategy will only succeed if all Government Departments accept responsibility for delivering policies that support good mental health.”


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