Feedback from our letter to North East MPs around improving mental health services

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So far, four local MPs have been in touch to follow up on our campaign. Our original open letter to the region's MPs can be found here.

Alex Cunningham MP (Stockton North) committed to write to the Health Secretary about this. Alan Campbell MP (Tynemouth) has said he was pleased to lend support, writing to the Chancellor to ask as part of the Spending Review that he restore funding to mental health services in the North East and invest in mental health services going forward.

Peter Gibson MP (Darlington) contacted MHNE to request a phone conversation with our Chairperson, Neil Kelly.

Peter accepted that mental health is becoming a bigger issue evidenced by contacts with constituents during the pandemic. The issue of mental health has been raised many times in the house of commons and he affirmed that the government’s mission is to support mental health services and to raise them to the point of Parity of Esteem with those for physical health. He also said that there had been a number of funding decisions which had helped the NHS Mental health provision.

Neil put the point to him that there had been promises of “Parity of Esteem” since at least the days of the Cameron Government and raised some issues faced by voluntary organisations. Peter suggested that much had been done by the government to support voluntary sector organisations and that there were many sources of funding available for this. Peter further said that any organisations in his area experiencing difficulty should make him aware.

Finally he said that a Spending Review was imminent in parliament and we should look to this for the Government commitment to Mental Health. MHNE await the spending review with interest and will be publicising and requesting member's comments on that Review.Darlington VCO organisations who have an interest in mental health and are experiencing funding difficulties should contact Peter directly via his website.

Bridget Phillipson, MP for Houghton and South Sunderland and Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury responded with the following:

"I am incredibly grateful for the work of those organisations including your own, who do so much to prioritise the importance of good mental health in our community, and work to ensure the needs of people facing mental health issues are met, all undoubtedly in spite of the increased pressures and stretched resources that have been exacerbated because of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. I also share your view that the current public health crisis has severe implications for mental health support; getting access to the right support is a process that can be difficult enough in ordinary times, but has now been made all the more challenging for many because of unprecedented disruption.

Recent ONS statistics show that almost one in five adults (19.2%) were likely to be experiencing some form of depression during the coronavirus pandemic in June 2020; this had almost doubled from around 1 in 10 (9.7%) before the pandemic (July 2019 to March 2020). There is a hidden mental health crisis taking place behind closed doors.
With this in mind, many will consequently be further suffering from the negative effects of job losses and closures within the mental health sector. And with NHS services stretched, those left without support rely on charities during times of crisis. It is now more important than ever that the Government take mental health seriously and provide the resources and facilities it needs. The Government's recent hospitals announcement was a missed opportunity to fulfil this, and it is an insult that mental health – which represents one quarter of all health need – again lost out.

I can assure you that I will continue to press the Government on this matter, to hold them to account on delivering the mental health services that the North East needs. 

Thank you again for writing to me.  Bridget Phillipson MP"