General Election 2015: What does each party's manifesto pledge for mental health?

by Sarah Graham
Friday 01 May 2015
220 11210

With General Election fever now seriously ramping up ahead of polling day on 7 May, we trawled through the seven main parties' election manifestos, to see how they've firmed up their policies on mental health. There are a few changes since the last time we looked, so we've tried to condense each party's manifesto pledges for mental health care into brief lists, to help you hold the next government accountable for their promises.

Of course, it can be difficult to know what to make of manifesto pledges that actually look quite similar on a lot of levels, so we also asked 134 of our qualified therapists which party they most trust to put their mental health care plans into action. You can see the results of that poll and read their comments below.

Conservatives

  • Help people with long-term but treatable conditions back into work
  • Ensure people who might benefit from treatment get the medical help they need so they can return to work
  • Review whether to reduce benefits of people who refuse a recommended treatment
  • Continue to take mental health as seriously as physical health
  • Ensure there are therapists in every part of the country providing treatment for those who need it
  • Increase funding for mental health care
  • Enforce new access and waiting time standards for people experiencing mental ill-health, including children and young people
  • Ensure women have access to mental health support during and after pregnancy, and strengthen the health visiting programme for new mothers
  • Innovate in how public services are delivered - focusing on youth unemployment, mental health and homelessness
  • Ensure proper provision of health and community based places of safety for people suffering mental health crises - saving police time and stopping vulnerable people being detained in police custody

 

Labour

  • Introduce health reforms focused on prevention and early intervention, and joining up services from home to hospital
  • Create a whole person approach - a single service to meet all of a person's health and care needs, rather than having three separate systems for dealing with physical, mental and social care
  • Introduce new rights for patients and ensure they receive better information and advice on managing their condition
  • Bring together commissioning and budgets at a local level to join up services and make sure providers are incentivised to help people stay healthy and outside hospital
  • Give mental health the same priority as physical health
  • Ensure people have the same right to psychological therapies as they currently have to drugs and medical treatments
  • Ensure NHS staff training will include mental health, to help address the problem of undiagnosed mental illness
  • Increase the proportion of the mental health budget that is spent on children
  • Make sure teachers have mental health training so they can identify problems early and link children up with support
  • Encourage the development of social and emotional skills, e.g. through the use of mindfulness to build resilience
  • Set out a strategy with the goal of ensuring the great majority of patients can access talking therapies within 28 days, and all children who need it can access school-based counselling

 

Liberal Democrats

  • Ensure the NHS and Scottish Parliament have the money and resources needed to make sure mental health will have equal status with physical health
  • Ensure those facing anxiety and depression will be seen swiftly, people struggling not to harm themselves will find emergency help at A&E, and teenagers suffering from eating disorders will get the help they need close to home
  • Provide young people with work experience placements, which should be tailored for those with disabilities or mental health problems
  • Provide better support and training for foster carers, including on mental health issues
  • End the discrimination against mental health and deliver equal care through a properly funded NHS
  • Increase mental health spending in England's NHS by £500m a year by 2016/17, and provide the cash for similar investments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland
  • Continue to roll out access and waiting time standards for children, young people and adults
  • Increase access to talking therapies
  • Transform care for pregnant women, new mothers, and those who have experienced miscarriage or stillbirth
  • Revolutionise children's mental health services, building better links with schools, ensuring children develop mental resilience, and getting support and care quickly to those who are struggling
  • Ensure no one in crisis is turned away, with better crisis care in A&E, the community and via phone lines
  • End the use of police cells for people facing a mental health crisis
  • Extend the use of personal budgets and integrate care more fully with the rest of the NHS
  • Publish a national wellbeing strategy, which puts better health and wellbeing at the heart of government policy
  • Develop a clear approach on preventing mental illness with a public health campaign
  • Support good practice among employers and ensure people with mental health problems get the help they need to stay in or find work
  • Invest £50m to establish a world-leading mental health research fund
  • Continue to support the Time to Change programme to tackle stigma against mental health
  • Ensure all frontline public service professionals get better training in mental health
  • Extend the role of the Youth Justice Board to all offenders aged under 21 and give them power to commission mental health services
  • Assess progress in prisons reducing reoffending, providing education, and tackling addiction and mental health issues
  • Provide experts in courts and police stations to identify mental health or drug problems
  • Improve support for personnel and veterans with mental health problems, including alcohol depedency

 

Greens

  • Work towards ending stigma against people with mental health problems, including discrimination in employment
  • Increase the overall NHS budget by £12 billion a year, increasing investment in mental health care, and providing free dentistry, chiropody and prescriptions in England
  • Expand the NHS workforce to drive the wholesale improvement of mental health services
  • End mental health's Cinderella status and achieve parity of esteem [with physical health] by 2020
  • Ensure spending on mental health care rises
  • Ensure no one waits more than 28 days for access to talking therapies
  • Ensure everyone experiencing a mental health crisis, including children and young people, have safe and speedy access to quality care, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
  • Eliminate the use of police cells as 'places of safety' for children by 2016
  • Ensure everyone who requires a mental health bed is able to access one in their local NHS Trust area, unless they need specialist care and treatment. Where specialist care is required, this should be provided within a reasonable distance of where the patient lives
  • Implement a campaign to end the discrimination and stigma associated with mental health problems, through supporting the Time to Change programme and offering employment support to those with mental health problems
  • Invest in dementia services, ensuring support is available for all affected, including families and carers
  • Pay special attention to mental health issues of mothers during and after pregnancy, children and adolescents, black and minority ethnic people, refugees, the LGBTIQ communities, and ex-service people and their families
  • Improve access to addiction services
  • Give higher priority to the physical health care of those with mental health problems
  • Consider offering more personalised job-seeking support for people with mental health problems

 

Ukip

  • Invest £1.5 billion into mental health and dementia services
  • Take a ‘whole person' approach to health, which means giving mental health parity with physical health
  • Direct patients diagnosed with a debilitating long-term condition or terminal illnesses to mental health professionals when appropriate
  • Recognise there is often a link between addiction and mental illness, and offer appropriate treatment where this is the case
  • Offer direct access to specialist mental health treatment for pregnant women and mothers of children under 12 months of age
  • Fight the stigma around mental illness and support those seeking to get back into work.
  • Ensure that patients experiencing distress or exhibiting mental ill-health issues when admitted to hospital have both their physical health and mental wellbeing assessed
  • Increase mental health funding by £170 million annually
  • Create a dedicated Minister for Veterans, head up a Veterans Administration (VA), providing health care, housing, counselling, education and training, rehabilitation, hospital care, access to veteran financial services, benefits and memorialisation, and covering issues such as veteran homelessness, drug and alcohol abuse and mental health problems
  • Build a dedicated military hospital to provide specialist physical and mental health services
  • Provide bereavement support through the VA, and ensure fast-track access to NHS mental health care

 

Scottish National Party (SNP)

  • Support an overhaul of the Work Capability Assessments and demand and urgent review of the conditionality and sanctions regime - taking particular account of the needs of people with mental health issues, and seeking to establish an approach that is proportionate and ethical, that recognises the particular challenges facing some individuals, and that avoids excessive or blanket measures which penalise those looking for work
  • Increase investment in mental health innovation to £100 million over the next five years
  • Direct resources towards projects that all improve mental health treatments in the primary care sector
  • Enable further investment in child and adolescent mental health services

 

Plaid Cymru

  • Work to raise awareness of mental health issues in the workplace and across society
  • Increase access to talking therapies, as well as funding support for eating disorders, and drug and alcohol treatment
  • Increase resources for mental health services for young people
  • Tackle mental health issues amongst prisoners, in order to prevent future criminal behaviour
  • Provide additional support to mental health services for children and young people with mental health problems, including access to appropriate care settings
  • Encourage employers to provide adequate support for staff experiencing mental health difficulties
  • Improve cooperation between the prison service and health and substance misuse services

 

What do RSCPP's therapists think?

General Election 2015 | Create infographics

Why?

Therapists who answered Conservative:

They have got this country out of a difficult situation and spend our money wisely. Our local candidate cares very deeply about this and has first hand personal experience.

Least likely to try micromanaging or creating so much bureaucracy that good practice, flexibility for individual client needs and innovation are all but destroyed.

You have to have a strong economy to support services and the other parties will destroy wealth creation.

Better financial management and sound economic measures. Not just a wish list financed by debt.

They will control the budget wisely, while at the same time get people back into work to pay for the service which is needed.

 

Therapists who answered Labour: 

I think they're the most likely to get into power, they believe in the NHS, and I think really acknowledge the gap between physical and mental health.

The Labour Party has a proven track record historically. The are usually identified as the best party to uphold the values of the NHS and are more likely to deliver. I particularly like the idea of training doctors and teachers to understand mental health.

The concept of public sector provision is based on a socialist principle of including everyone which includes - broadly speaking - vulnerable groups. Both education and mental health are key areas in this regard. I believe this is supported best by a socialist government. I also work in the NHS and have direct experience of how this current Tory government are undermining the NHS to a frightening degree.

Conservative policy to review benefits if 'treatment' refused is antithetical to all ethical guidelines.

Conservatives have consistently cut funding to NHS and charities dealing with mental health. Sadly if you cannot afford to pay privately then you suffer and these are often those most in need. I like Labour's election pledge, they see the value in investment in people rather than financial gains of cutting vital services and they would have to power to do it.

 

Therapists who answered Liberal Democrats:

More emphasis on the person and their needs rather than forcing someone back to work.

They have made the most realistic and empathic commitments and have a track record the other parties don't. Labour has very good proposals but reality and rhetoric are unlikely to match. The wellbeing strategy is important. No party includes counsellor regulation, which I believe is important for client safety.

It looks like the Liberal Democrats have put the most thought into their mental health strategy. They have gone into it in depth. I'm not sure I trust them to deliver it though as they won't have the power but perhaps they could team up with Labour to exert some influence.

Because they have consistently focused on mental health issues. The Conservatives and Labour Party have always paid lip service to mental health issues. UKIP are far too judgemental and more likely to cause additional mental health issues with their bigotry.

They have the most appropriate AND achievable policies that target mental health, in particular the phrase "equal status with physical health". The Conservatives have an agenda that links mental health to work and benefit cost reduction and I am against, as a psychologist, being told which patients are more valuable in terms of resources. The Labour party have a bad record of delivery and, having been subject to a service being closed because we dealt with physical disability AND mental health and didn't fit a target group priority, I am reluctant to fall for their rhetoric in this area.

 

Therapists who answered Green:

As with everything else that counts, i.e. environment, social inclusion and fairness, they seem the most ideologically sound. Less big business, more focused on the individual and their rights/needs.

Whatever the words on the policies, I trust the Green Party to really care about people's mental health, and support diversity within the services. Also other Green Party policies, such as ending austerity, their affordable housing policies, and environmental policies, would help generally with improving people's mental health.

Their mental health policies seem to be the most thought-through and carefully costed. They're focused on helping all people with mental health problems, not just those they think can be got back into work. They seem to have looked at mental health issues in a very wide range of contexts.

I think this party engages less in rhetoric and talks in everyday language about everyday problems that people from all walks of life face. I particularly like this: 'Give higher priority to the physical health care of those with mental health problems' and this: 'End mental health's Cinderella status and achieve parity of esteem [with physical health] by 2020'. They seem to recognise the underlying problems and aim to address these directly.

Not least because they recognise mental health problems as 'the crisis of our time' and are committed to ending the privatisation of the NHS, which I believe will always put profit before people.

 

Therapists who answered Ukip:

Because of two issues that I believe in: 1. Take a ‘whole person' approach to health, which means giving mental health parity with physical health. 2. Create a dedicated Minister for Veterans, head up a Veterans Administration (VA), providing health care, housing, counselling, education and training, rehabilitation, hospital care, access to veteran financial services, benefits and memorialisation, and covering issues such as veteran homelessness, drug and alcohol abuse and mental health problems.

Therapists who answered Scottish National Party or Plaid Cymru did not state their reasons.

We want to know what you make of the manifesto pledges on mental health: Which party do you most trust on mental health issues and why? Will it affect how you vote? Let us know via Twitter @rscpp or our Facebook page.


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If you are concerned about the issues raised in this article then you may like to read about finding the right therapist for you. If this route is not appropriate for you, your GP can assess you and direct you towards support.

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Updated 08 May 2015