HC Deb 04 November 2003 vol 412 cc652-4
3. Mr. Andrew Mackay (Bracknell)

If he will make a statement on mental health services. [135970]

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Ms Rosie Winterton)

Mental health services are being modernised in line with the standards set out in the national service framework and the commitments announced in the NHS plan. We are encouraged by the progress made, but we are also aware of the special challenges facing some services.

Mr. Mackay

Does the Minister not realise that my constituents will see that answer as hopelessly complacent, against the background of the Berkshire Healthcare NHS trust, which looks after the mentally ill in Berkshire, having to make £8.1 million worth of cuts this year in services to the most vulnerable and dependent people in the community? How do I explain to my constituents that, while Ministers claim that more money is going into the NHS, those vulnerable people are going to suffer hugely in the forthcoming year?

Ms Winterton

Berkshire Healthcare NHS trust has consistently met the key national service framework targets, particularly in the development of a 24-hour service such as crisis resolution. In Bracknell especially, there are gateway workers in place who are key to service improvement for patients. I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman explain to his constituents how services would be provided after the 20 per cent. cut that his party would institute.

Mr. David Hinchliffe (Wakefield)

The Government deserve great credit for many of the improvements that are taking place in mental health services, particularly through the national service framework. One of the areas that remains a concern to many in mental health is the role of the special hospitals. In the light of the possibility of mental health legislation coming through in the new Session or the one after that, will there be any chance of reforming the special hospitals and following the various recommendations of numerous reports initiated by the Government themselves and suggesting that we ought to move away from the current model of special hospitals?

Ms Winterton

I know my hon. Friend has great expertise, particularly in the issue of mental health as well as in wider health issues. Of course, a number of changes in the way in which the special hospitals operate have been made in recent years. We are looking at the reports that have come forward, and I can assure my hon. Friend that we want to ensure that the special hospitals meet the needs of the 21st century. If that requires further changes to be made, of course we will do that.

Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham)

The Minister's answer to my right hon. Friend the Member for Bracknell (Mr. Mackay) was exceedingly complacent; for "challenges" read "failure"—what the Government have failed to achieve so far. In 2000, the NHS plan gave a commitment to establish 335 crisis resolution teams by;2003, with 24-hour access by 2004. Our recent survey revealed that over 38 per cent. of mental health trusts do not have crisis resolution teams, over 50 per cent. do not offer 24-hour access and very few have anything like a full complement of staff in any case.

Will the Minister give us an update on when that pledge will be met, or is it another empty promise that is to be shelved? Will she also tell us why there has been a loss of 4,000 mental health beds since her Government came to power?

Ms Winterson

The hon. Gentleman is quite mistaken. There have been significant steps to support the delivery of national targets through the National Institute for Mental Health in England. There are now more than 100 crisis resolution teams and more than 200 assertive outreach teams in place. Progress is being made on the targets for early intervention schemes. We know that £262 million extra was spent on mental health services last year.

I ask the hon. Gentleman to pledge that he will continue the investment that this Government have put in. We are improving mental health services; his party would cut them.

Dr. Jack Cunningham (Copeland)

Will the Minister look very closely at any conclusions that emerge from the mental health and learning disability review consultation which has just concluded in north and west Cumbria? May I join the Chairman of the Select Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Hinchliffe), in welcoming the Government's determination to commit additional resources to mental health service provision—a decision that is long overdue and was never taken by the Conservative party in government? Is the Minister aware, and will she accept, that it is unacceptable in west Cumbria for crisis and acute bed provision to be removed and located in the centres to which my hon. Friend referred earlier? That is a backward step. We need care and provision in the community, not centralisation of those services.

Ms Winterton

I am aware that my right hon. Friend has expressed concern about that situation on behalf of his constituents and that he is meeting the Under-Secretary of State for Health, my hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Miss Johnson). to discuss the proposed changes, the consultation and the real anxieties that he and his constituents have raised.

Hywel Williams (Caernarfon)

Anti-oppressive practice is central to mental health services, and to the Mental Health Act 1983. It was, however, conspicuously absent from the Government's legislative proposals last year. Can the Minister assure us that in any future legislation linguistically appropriate practice will be given due regard, particularly in Wales?

Ms Winterton

The 1983 Act does of course need to be updated to provide more safeguards for patients, and to take account of public safety issues. I assure the hon. Gentleman that we are taking on board comments made during the consultation, and that we will publish a Bill when parliamentary time allows.