The final days of the election campaign are ahead of us and the tumultuous political commentators preparing for election night I thought I would put my nerdy political scrolling to some use.
Mental health to has found itself playing a prominent role in the manifestos of this election with all parties outlining their key pledges to win the vote of the 1 in 4 of us that suffer from a mental health problem.
Conservatives on Mental Health
• Promised to make the United Kingdom the leading research and technology economy in the world of mental health.
• Pledged to replace the Mental Health Act 1983 with a more modernised piece of legislation.
• Promised to personalise employment support for those suffering from health issues.
• Promised to recruit 10,000 new mental health professionals.
• All trainees will have some experience working in a mental health discipline.
The Conservatives have outlined some innovative pledges which is encouraging to see, specifically the aim to make the United Kingdom a centre of excellence when it comes to mental health research.
The modernising of the Mental Health Act 1983 sounds good on the face of it but like some of their policies we will have to wait until after the election before we can understand fully what they plan to do. I don't consider the 1983 Act to be perfect but it safeguards vulnerable individuals to a certain extent.
The promise of 10,000 new mental health professionals is the cause of much of my scepticism. I am not quite sure where they're going to get them from unless they reinstate the nursing bursary that was taken away when George Osbourne was chancellor. We have already seen a 23% reduction in the number of nursing applications for university in 2016. Could nursing become the Tories next apprenticeship push?
Overall the Conservative Party's policies are vague and lack any real spending commitments but if they were to pull off a better Mental Health Act that protected mental health sufferers more that would be a welcome achievement.
The Labour Party on Mental Health
• Pledged to ring-fence all mental health budgets
• Pledged to end out of area placements by 2019
• Promised to invest in early intervention by increasing budgets for children and young people's mental health services.
• Promised all secondary school children access to a counselling service
• Promised to ask NICE to evaluate increasing the range of evidence based psychological therapies on offer.
Firstly, I completely support the idea of ring-fencing all funding directed towards mental health, effectively stopping Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG's) from using funding for mental health in other areas.
The idea of ending out of area placements by 2019 for people suffering from mental health problems is a good one but if Labour win they would have to spend a large sum of money to provide enough beds in each area to stop people going out of area. This pledge could be economically difficult with the current funds available.
Increasing funds for children and adolescent mental health services is a must. The more expenditure going into early intervention for young people the more we will save money in other public services.
Allowing young people to have access to counselling services in secondary schools is a promising pledge although I am yet again slightly sceptical on the economics of this.
Finally, I completely support Labour's plan to work with NICE on increasing the range of evidence based psychological therapies available. This could see more choice for the sufferer, meaning better outcomes in the long term.
The Liberal Democrats on Mental Health
• Pledged to ring-fence funding for mental health.
• Examine specialist service for children and young people like the one used in Australia.
• Pledged to fast track high achieving graduates for a career in mental health.
• Transform mental health support for pregnant woman.
I am pleased to see the Lib Dems have pledged to ring-fence funding for mental health and even put forward how they're going to pay for further funding; through the one penny rise in income tax, a costing not explained by similar pledges by other parties..
I support the Liberal Democrats plan to fast track high achieving graduates into a career in mental health. However, the number of personnel entering the profession would still not fill all the roles needed in the lower pay bands of our NHS; the backbone to the service.
The innovative approach to children and young people's mental health the Liberal Democrats are taking looking at Australia's model for treating children and young people with mental health difficulties and on the extra psychological support for pregnant woman.
Although this is not a pledge on mental health I think it is an important one in this debate. The idea of legalising cannabis which the Liberal Democrats have put forward would be catastrophic to people's mental health with key evidence showing the connection between psychosis and cannabis.
Other parties on Mental Health
Key pledges include:
• UKIP's pledge to introduce health and wellbeing into the OFSTED inspection framework
• UKIP's pledge to introduce mental wellbeing in existing medical examinations for serving armed forces personnel
• Green Party's pledge for extra training on mental health for all public services
• The SNP's pledge to increase the mental health workforce
• Plaid Cymru's pledge to improve mental healthcare for veterans
UKIP's pledge to introduce health and wellbeing into the OFSTED inspection framework could help identify key issues for young people in schools regarding their wellbeing. This would help put mental health firmly on the agenda when it comes to education policy.
The prominence mental health has played in the manifestos is a victory not just for those suffering from mental health problems and the clinicians working in mental health, but for our society in general.