HC Deb 07 May 2002 vol 385 cc5-7
3. Lynne Jones (Birmingham, Selly Oak)

If he will make a statement about funding for child and adolescent mental health services in Birmingham. [52774]

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Jacqui Smith)

In the past three years, we have invested some £85 million across the national health service and local authorities for child and adolescent mental health services.

Birmingham has received significant investment for those services during that time and has been allocated £549,000 from the West Midlands modernisation fund to develop an acute assessment unit due to open later this year.

Lynne Jones

May I thank my hon. Friend for the substantial increase in the resources that are now coming through for this vital service for children? Does she agree that it is not just funding that is a constraint but the desperate shortage of psychiatrists and other therapists? Furthermore, as my inquiries into the service provided by the Children's Trust in Birmingham seem to indicate, management is poor and protocols inconsistent. When the Commission for Health Improvement visits the trust in the near future, will my hon. Friend ask it to pay particular attention to those matters, especially in relation to the suspension of one consultant psychiatrist? She was able to manage her work load and keep waiting lists down so that the children did not languish on waiting lists for up to two years, as is the case for children in my constituency. Might I add that that is not the first suspension by the Children's Trust that has caused me concern?

Jacqui Smith

I agree that we need to address the issue in several ways. My hon. Friend is right to say that there is a challenge in recruiting and retaining the skilled staff that we need to provide child and adolescent mental health services. There is also a challenge, as she suggested, particularly in Birmingham, in managing resources effectively. Work is under way to build on the four new primary care trusts as localities for delivering child and adolescent mental health services.

Finally, we must also consider other examples. Solihull, near my hon. Friend's constituency, is reorganising the way in which it offers child and adolescent mental health services and considering in particular tier one, early intervention and ways in which other professionals can be used to help support children and families who have mental health problems. In that way, we can deliver a better service for my hon. Friend's constituents and throughout the country.

Sir Michael Spicer (West Worcestershire)

What are the plans for the provision of secure units in Birmingham and elsewhere for severely mentally disabled and ill people, many of whom end up, quite wrongly, in prison?

Jacqui Smith

As I suggested in my first answer, the regional specialist commissioning group has allocated £549,000 from the West Midlands specialist modernisation fund to develop an acute assessment unit at the Park View clinic in Moseley, Birmingham, which is due to open later this year. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that, with young offenders, it is also important to ensure better joint working between youth offending teams and the child and adolescent mental health services. In addition, we are investing in mental health services in prisons and for young offenders so that they receive the treatment that they need when in prison in a way that has not happened previously.

Fiona Mactaggart (Slough)

Does the Minister also recognise that many young people with mental health problems never reach the health service? Often, in constituencies like mine, their problems arise from traumatic experiences overseas from which they have fled, and they report their concerns in schools. What work is my hon. Friend doing with the education service to ensure proper care for children and adolescents with mental health problems such as those?

Jacqui Smith

My hon. Friend makes an important point. It is crucial that we work across the agencies in a better way than we have done previously. First, we shall include in the national health service framework for children work on standards to improve child and adolescent mental health services. We have recently worked with colleagues in the Department for Education and Skills on promoting mental health in early years and school settings. We are working with it on its programme on improving behaviour. In addition, we are funding, and will continue to fund, innovation projects that look particularly at how to get professionals such as health visitors, teachers and primary care workers working together earlier so that we prevent the escalation of some of the mental health problems that my hon. Friend has outlined.

Mr. Oliver Heald (North-East Hertfordshire)

In Birmingham, child psychiatrists do not have the nurses that they need—they are able to treat only emergencies. The waiting time for seeing a patient on the list is 18 months. At a time when the Department for Education and Skills and the Home Office are making announcements about the problem of disaffected youngsters, will the Minister explain what the Department of Health is doing about adolescents and children with mental health problems? Given that children and adolescents form 20 per cent. of the population, why does only 5 per cent. of the mental health budget go to services for them? Why do places such as Birmingham spend so much less than elsewhere? Is it not time that the Government dealt with the problem of child and adolescent mental health instead of cutting the money as they did last year? Last year, £10 million allocated for mental health was chopped out of the budget and sent off to other priorities. Is it not time that those services were given the priority that they deserve?

Jacqui Smith

In fact, the out-turn figures for 2001 suggest that, for child and adolescent mental health services, Birmingham was the second highest spending authority in the west midlands. Of course, the authority was able to spend that money because of the extra £85 million invested in child and adolescent mental health services by the Government. This year, there are plans to increase services in Birmingham: better services for 16 to 18-year-olds and better services for early intervention, so that the whole of Birmingham is covered. Once again, Opposition Members are willing to whinge about money, but they are not willing to vote for it.

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