HC Deb 18 March 1997 vol 292 cc714-5
6. Rev. Martin Smyth

To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on provision for mental health patients. [19166]

Mr. Burns

A range of policy initiatives have been taken that should enable health authorities, in conjunction with other agencies, to provide a comprehensive service for patients with mental health problems.

Rev. Martin Smyth

I thank the Minister for that response, but does he not accept that there is still work to be done centrally, to gain a better understanding of the needs of the nation and to plan strategy accordingly, and that part of that strategy must include a recognition of the need for more improvement in mental health care for children and adolescents?

Mr. Burns

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that question. Yes, of course the Government and all in the national health service are determined to enhance and further to improve mental health provision for adults and children. As he will be aware, several initiatives designed further to enhance that care have been taken over the past few years. We are not complacent; we shall continue with that work. As for the treatment of adults with severe mental health problems, last month my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State published a Green Paper, to explore the options for moving forward to further improvement in the service.

Mr. Nigel Evans

About a month ago I went to a mental health seminar in Preston, where I was impressed by an initiative that has been taken up by one of the trusts to the west of my constituency, which I hope will be taken up in my constituency, too—a mental health helpline. As my hon. Friend will know, people who need help with mental health problems often need it at unsocial hours, not just between nine and five. Will he congratulate the people who volunteer to give guidance via the helpline, and encourage other trusts to take up such initiatives?

Mr. Burns

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for drawing to the attention of the House what sounds like an excellent idea—providing support and making available through the helpline counselling, advice and help for those in crisis and their families. I strongly recommend other health authorities and trusts to consider that example, and to see what lessons can be learned so as further to enhance support for the families of those suffering from mental illness.