During the lead up to the 2015 UK election I’d received an email from the MQ Transforming Mental Health research organisation, and had read about how there was substantial lack of research into mental health and treatments. As this was an issue which I’d felt quite passionately about, where I’d received counselling for anxiety and depression in the past and also prescribed medication by my GP, I’d decided to investigate this issue further by examining sources online and writing to various charities, organisations and political leaders about their policies on this issue.
The response I’d received from the various parties, specialist researchers and campaigners was mixed, but generally positive. I received a very gracious response from two eminent Lords from the House of Commons Parliament, an interesting discussion with several professors, and a formal from a political aid for the Prime Minister David Cameron, who had allegedly read my email.
My interest on this issue and the question I put to all the parties and charities which dealt with this matter was this: how were each of the parties intending to focus spending on mental health research? Another question I put to charities and organisations was this: which party did they believe would make this a genuine priority on their agenda?
Mostly, the responses I’d received from charity groups were a blanket response that they either unable or unwilling to comment on the matter (presumably due to political, publicity and funding reasons), but that they had produced manifestos in order to encourage whichever party won the election.
The email I’d sent in April and responses have been copied below:
(NOTE: unfortunately errors appear in the text formatting where the emails have been copied from their original sources)
Dear Sir or Madam,
I’d read recentlya published report by MQ research into mental health. Any advice or guidance on the matter about which parties would offer the best support on this issue. Information published in the charity MIND’s MEAM campaign draws attention to discrimination, public services, therapies and treatments, but doesn’t really address the problem of lack of funding for scientific research in the MQ report.
I’ve had a chance to look over ‘Manifest for Mind’ and although it is good to know that the LibDems wish to increase the funding for child and adult mental health services, and the £50 million in research funding, I do feel that perhaps this strategy resembles Labour’s to improve the care services already available, and promote such things are the implementation of NICE guidelines, talk therapies and drug treatment, without properly investing in research.
In the Independent it was reported that scientists in the US had discovered a significant link in the treatment for dementia, which doesn’t appear to be directly related to the recent announcement the Health Security made last month that the department would be working with the finance firm JP Morgan and top pharmaceutical companies to tackle this issue.
This also seems somewhat controversial since one of the drug companies Pfizer used $750 million on clinical research in 2012 which didn’t produce any results. Moreover, an investment with the NY business finance company like JP Morgan and the pharmaceutical companies, seems like less of philanthropic drive and more to do with the lack of investment and slump in industry for UK drug manufacturers as reported by CITY AM in the same year.
Investment and progress with the NHS might lead to better services and improvement to therapies already available to people that suffer from mental illness but the current method for treating and diagnosing mental illness seems like a guessing game for GPs which further scientific research might assist.
I’m not suggesting that Mindfulness and Talk therapies don’t work and aren’t helpful, but really it’s just talking, which is nothing to do with actual scientific research into mental illness and the drugs used to treat these. Labour’s recent manifesto mentions a focus on the NHS and improvement for mental health treatment in pages 20 and 33, primarily the integration and improvement of patient care alongside clinical trials and the implementation of the NICE guidelines, but this doesn’t really mention anything about researching funding for mental as outlined in the MQ report.
A response I’d received from the conservative Lord Howe about the £8 billion pledge for the NHS was that those funds would be available as and when they’d made ‘efficiency gains’ under the Five Year Forward View, which refers to services, ie talk therapy and drug treatment.
‘ Many thanks for your email.
I have asked my colleague in Conservative Central Office to get back to you substantively on your specific query relating to mental health provision. On your query about the £8billion, this figure is not arbitrary. It is the amount of money, expressed in real terms, which, assuming realistic levels of efficiency gains, the NHS will need by 2020/21 if it is going to meet anticipated levels of demand, taking the forecasts set out in the NHS recent Five Year Forward View. The Five Year Forward View has been accepted by my Party (and I believe by Labour and the Lib Dems also) as the right basis on which to plan for healthcare provision in the next Parliament, including mental health. You will however have noted, I am sure, the substantial additional money allocated to mental health in the Chancellor’s recent Budget statement.
I thought it would be useful to make you aware of this discrepancy in research funding, especially given the statistics. And that although, excuse my apparent cynicism, both dementia and cancer are serious long term terminal illnesses, and where depression and suicide are clearly not, I think that drug companies and the health department are more likely to concentrate a physical terminal condition than a mental psychological one, despite the parties talk of ‘parity of esteem’ between both the physical and mental.
13/04/2015 – Annie Quick, Researcher for New Economics Foundation
Thanks for your email. We haven’t done an evaluation of each parties’ position on mental health and wellbeing issues, and as it would require a careful consideration of the manifestos and the research supporting various policies, we certainly wouldn’t want to take an overall position on each parties’ policies. Needless to say, however, we will be looking out closely this week as the manifestos emerge.
Researcher, Centre for Well-being | New Economics Foundation
| www.neweconomics.org | @NEF
From the information you have sent us, you would appear to be better informed than we are on the promises by the various political parties on their plans for funding mental health research. The best document we have is that issued by the Alliance of Mental Health Research Funders (AMHRF), which gives the charities view on the state of mental health funding and what can be achieved. The link is as follows: http://www.amhrf.org.uk/our-work/
Regards David Riggs
Mental Health Research UK – the first UK charity dedicated to funding research into the causes of and cures for mental illness.
14/04/2015 – Catherine Greggs, campaigner for Mental Health Resistance
I cannot speak to the official perspective of MHR but in my own opinion the lib dems have presided over the most destructive parliament in history in terms of driving people into mental distress and need for mental health services. What they are now offering won’t nearly begin to address the needs created by their destructive policies re health and social care bill, WCA etc. Turncoats the lots of them. And a case of closing the stable door after the k’s been bolted if you will.(firstname.lastname@example.org)
Sent from my iPhone
15/04/2015 – Catherine Bearder, member of the Liberal Democrats Party for the European Parliament
Thank you for your email about the Lib Dems’ policy on health services. As a Member of the European Parliament I have no direct influence in national and non-European Union matters such as health policy. However, I am happy to tell you about my and my party’s health policy. The NHS is our most treasured public service and it is safe in Liberal Democrat hands. We’ll invest the £8bn NHS bosses say they need to maintain the high quality care you expect, free when you need it. And we’ll guarantee equal care and support for everyone with mental health problems, who have been left behind for too long. These commitments are so important to us, we’ve put them on the front page of our manifesto: our plan for the NHS is one of just five priorities at this election. For more information my party’s views on health, in particular mental health, please see this link for the Lib Dem manifesto that was launched today: http://www.libdems.org.uk/manifesto. I hope this information is helpful.
However, if you feel there is anything I can do at a European level then please do not hesitate to get back in touch.
Catherine Bearder MEP Liberal Democrat member of the European Parliament for the South East of England Constituency Office 27 Park End Street Oxford OX1 1HU www.bearder.eu
14/04/2015 – Lord Philip Hunt, House of Lords
Many thanks for this. I really agree about investment and we have seen in the last 2 years the problems arising where funding has been allowed to slip. My own experience in Birmingham bears this out. As investment declines, more people with mental health issues end up in A and E but there is a lack of support for them. So I am very interested in developing a whole system approach in which mental health is core part rather than an afterthought. This is what we mean by whole person care. We have had no indication as to where the conservatives will fund the £8bn by 2020 so our emphasis is on an immediate injection of £2.5bn to get the whole system going.I hope this is helpful.
The Rt Hon Lord Hunt of Kings Heath PC OBE
Deputy Leader of the Opposition Twitter: @LordPhilofBrumThe House of Lords
Westminster London SW1A 0PW
15/04/2015 – Anneliese Dodds, member of the European Parliament
Thank you go your email.Ensuring that people have access to excellent mental health services is crucial; there are many important points raised within the MIND manifesto, from reducing the stigma associated with mental health, to ensuring that people have the long term support and aftercare they need.As a Member of the European Parliament, I have no influence over UK Government health policy, so I would suggest you contact your parliamentary candidates for Winchester via: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/politics/constituencies/E14001041. They should be able to clearly lay out their party positions on this.Thanks again for getting in touch; I would like to invite you to please take a moment to complete my online constituent’s survey herehttp://www.AnnelieseDoddsMEP.uk/survey.If you’re interested in keeping updated on my work, both here in the South East and in the European Parliament, you can sign-up for my report back e-newsletter here http://www.AnnelieseDoddsMEP.uk/e_newsletter.
With best wishes,Yours sincerely
Anneliese Dodds MEP | The South East’s Voice in Europe
16/04/2015 – Robin Rea, MP for the Liberal Democrats Party
Robin Rea |
Campaign and Communications Organiser
17/04/2015 – Mark James, Ministerial correspondent for the Department of Health
Our ref: DE00000931971 (DoNotReply@dh.gsi.gov.uk)
Thank you for your correspondence of 13 and 14 April about mental health funding. I have been asked to reply to both emails. I note your concerns regarding mental health research and funding, and the policies of the political parties. However, the Department of Health cannot comment on political matters, and now that Parliament has been dissolved before the general election, it cannot comment more generally on this matter.For further information on plans for mental health, you may wish to contact the relevant political parties directly. The contact details can be found at the following link:http://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/mps/current-state-of-the-parties/ I am sorry I cannot be more helpful. Yours sincerely,
Ministerial Correspondence and Public Enquiries Department of Health
19/04/2015 – Jackie Porter, MP for the Liberal Democrats Party
I note the emails that have been going back and forth on this subject.
I do share your concern that there is much to do in the search for cures from many of the mental health conditions suffered by 1 in 4 of us today.
About 12 months ago, I met Professor David Baldwin
He leads a series of EU funded research projects on mental health at Southampton University.
We talked about the use of Erasmus funding to share good practice in mental health care across Europe and indeed other continents, and their research at five universities across Europe into identifying and improving mental health in the workplace.
With your permission, I could forward your query to him?
I understand your concern completely.
I work with many cases where children’s mental health needs are not tackled- merely addressed and managed.
There is so much, potentially to do that this could rightly swallow up many billions of ££’s in research alone.
But as you say, to date it does not appear that there is enough research on the problem. Prof Baldwin might know otherwise?
I do know however, that Liberal Democrats, through Norman Lamb, are committed to tackling this issue. As the nation starts to see a crisis in mental health care, it is necessary to consider not only the budgets allocated by the different parties- but also the statement of need.
In reviewing the links briefly, it seems that the case you make for looking at more serious mental health issues is well made, and may well result in more lives saved.
I will read the articles that you have sent more thoroughly and seek advice from David Baldwin when I can give the matter much more time- which will be, I am sorry to say, after the election.
However, it is an area of health care and survival which Liberal Democrats really do want to improve so my interest in this subject will remain after 7th May, I can assure you.I hope I have a sense of what you are seeking from me- but if you wish, please do not hesitate to contact me again.
kindest regards Jackie Porter
Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for children in Hampshire
Prospective MP for Winchester and Chandler’s Ford County Councillor representing residents and businesses in the Itchen Valley Division
23/04/2015 – Dr Andrew Mayers, Bournemouth University
I have been meaning to reply for some time, but have been too busy on my academic duties and the mental health campaigning work that I do. I think we should talk sometime. I am a psychologist at Bournemouth University, specialising in mental health (see www.andrewmayers.info), I am also a member of the Labour Party. Although my ‘paid’ role at BU is to teach and conduct research, I spend a considerable amount of time raising awareness about mental health, working with local and national charities, and campaigning. For my work on maternal mental health, I am part of an alliance that has taken our cause to Parliament.
It is my goal to make mental health an absolute priority for the next government. I have written to all 50 Election 2015 candidates across the 8 Dorset constituencies asking each of them where they stand on mental health. Many have responded well (although, disappointingly, I have not heard from Peter or David Stokes). I have secured agreement with those who I have spoken that, should they be elected, we meet as a matter of urgency to discuss mental strategies for Dorset. I am more than happy to discuss this with you, and would be willing to address a Labour meeting in the near future.
Dr Andrew Mayers,
PhD, MBPsSSenior Lecturer Bournemouth
University Psychology GroupFaculty of Science and TechnologyPoole HouseFern BarrowPoole BH12 5BB
24/04/2015 – Professor Sir John Savill, Chief Executive for the Medical Research Council
The MRC is only one of a number of organisations, many publicly-funded, that have an interest in research into mental health. Thank you for your e-mail. It will help MRC develop its spending plans for the next 5 years, which are critically dependent on the outcome of a post-election comprehensive spending review. With best wishes,
Professor Sir John Savill
28/04/2015 – Rosa Parker, Medical Research Council
Subject: FW: the 2015 election and lack of funding for research into Mental Health
Thank you for your email. While the MRC is independent in making decisions on funding research we are primarily funded by the Government and therefore not in a position to comment on the policies of political parties or manifesto commitments during the election period.The UK has a strong track record in excellent mental health research but we need to build on this work to meet urgent biological, psychosocial and public health needs. Mental health is a high priority area for the MRC and in a 2010 review of mental health research we identified a number or priority areas where more research was needed including severe mental illness, anxiety and depression, intellectual disabilities and pathways to mental wellbeing.Over the past few years by focusing on areas highlighted in the strategy, supporting addiction research clusters and engaging with researchers, we have been able to increase our funding on grants in this area by 17% and now spend around £107 million a year on neurosciences and mental health research. You notice that this figure is higher than the amount quoted in the MQ report which is based on their more in depth analysis.I am sorry that we are not able to address your original question directly but hope this response provides some assurance of the MRC’s commitment to this area, regardless of the outcome of the election. Further information on our priorities in mental health research can be found at the following link:http://www.mrc.ac.uk/research/strategy/aim-1/theme-1/objective-3/
Yours sincerely, Rosa Parker
Corporate Information and Policy Medical Research Council
14th Floor One Kemble Street London WC2B 4AN
20/05/2015 – Abigail Green, Political Correspondence Manager replying on the behalf of the Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader David Cameron
27/05/2015 – Oliver Hilbery, Project Officer for MEAM
Please accept my apologies for the very delayed reply.
My colleague Rezina at Mind may be able to help answer your questions around mindfulness and talking therapies and I’ve copied her to this email. I’m sorry again that I didn’t manage to get back to you before the general election.
With best wishes,
Project Director Making Every Adult Matter (MEAM)
28/05/2015 – Rezina Hakim, Policy and Campaigns Office for MIND
Thank you for getting in touch and enquiring about MEAM, talking therapies and political parties’ manifestoes. Given that we now know which party is in power and which election manifesto will now be implemented, are there specific questions you’d like to discuss in terms of the Conservative party manifesto?
In yesterday’s Queen’s speech, various Bills and commitments and in regards to mental health and the NHS, a seven day NHS service, the £8bn extra funding for the NHS by 2020 and new standards for mental health services. We don’t have any further detail as yet to how the £8bn will be funded and for what and where from. New standards for mental health we believe are the new standards to talking therapies which were introduced in April this year.If I can help with more detail then please let me know.
Policy and Campaigns Officer (Mental Health Services Team)