NHS needs to ‘be better’ at dealing with mental health patients

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The health secretary says the NHS must be better at dealing with mental health crisis cases. Jeremy Hunt, who’s in charge of the health service in England, was speaking to Newsbeat about our iPlayer documentary My Mind and Me.

He watched Radio 1 listener Bex talk about failures when she needed urgent help after a mental health crisis. Mr Hunt admits there’s a “bottleneck in parts of the country” for mental health beds.

“Compared to the scale of what we want to do which is to be much better at being there for people going through the agony that Bex is, there’s a long way to go,” he tells Newsbeat. The government’s latest plans to improve support for people up to the age of 18 with mental health issues were unveiled earlier this month. They include schemes to provide mental health care in schools in England.

The proposals, part of a £300m investment by the departments of health and education, include introducing a four-week waiting time for those needing specialist support and new mental health support teams in schools. It’s planned that around one in four schools in England will have this provision in place by 2022.

Campaigners say it’s a welcome development, but overdue. Speaking at the time of the announcement Sarah Brennan, chief executive of the charity Young Minds, said the move was “still only a start.” Extra money has also been set out for adult services in England.

The pledges mean, by 2020-21, an extra £1.28bn more should be spent in on mental health care real terms than was in 2015-16.

However, despite £140bn being spent on health care across the UK last year – analysis by King’s Fund health think tank suggested 40% of mental health trusts in England had seen their budgets cut in 2015-16.

Figures like this have led to some suggesting that mental health care is still “the poor relation” to physical care. Earlier this year the prime minister admitted mental health services are “patchy” and has told Newsbeat she’s going to review them.

Labour told Newsbeat that “since 2010 mental health funding has been cut and the number of mental health nurses has fallen.”

“Remaining mental health budgets have been raided to plug holes elsewhere in the NHS,” it argues.