Society backs call for mental health minister

The BPS has supported Lord Layard’s call for the appointment of a dedicated cabinet minster for mental health and social care based in the Department of Health. Lord Layard will suggest the idea when delivering the final Centre for Economic Performance 21st birthday lecture at the London School of Economics this evening

Dr Carole Allan, President of the British Psychological Society said: "This call shows that mental health is rising up the political agenda. We think it could be a positive move to have a specific minister of state, not only for mental health, but also to have a combined role for social care as Professor Layard has suggested. 

“We have argued consistently in our response to the Health and Social Care Bill that integrated care based on a stronger collaboration among professionals and better co-ordination between health and social care offers the most promising approach to improving patient care and meeting the key challenges facing the NHS.

“However, if this proposal is taken up, it will be vital that the government policy on mental health is not just seen as an issue for one person. Mental health impacts on many areas of life for many people, and it is important that all government departments ensure their remit is inclusive of this.”

In his lecture Lord Layard will note that mental illness accounts for a half of all the illness experienced by people under 65. It is responsible for a half of all days off sick and for a half of all disabled people on incapacity benefit. It explains a large amount of criminal behaviour and educational underperformance. And unless treated, it is regularly transmitted from generation to generation.

But there are excellent treatments out there, which would in many cases cost nothing because of the resulting savings in social expenditure. Yet only a quarter of people with mental illness get treatment – compared with at least 90% for people with most physical diseases.

This shocking difference is mainly because the facilities are not there and NICE-recommended treatment cannot be provided. Only 15% of NHS expenditure is on mental illness.

Lord Layard will conclude:

“One reason why we are no happier than we were in the 1950s is that despite huge advances in education, health and living standards, we have neglected the deep personal problems that hold so many people back.

“This situation will not be altered without a radical change that reflects the importance of mental health in our national life. It requires a separate cabinet minister for mental health and social care within the Department of Health.”