SDLP Foyle MLA Mark H Durkan has called for significant investment in the Health Service following news that English authorities are to provide 24/7 Community Mental Health Care.
Mr Durkan said that mental health services have suffered from chronic underinvestment which has been reflected in higher rates of mental illness and suicide in Northern Ireland.
He said: ““Following a report for NHS England recommending an additional spend of over £1 billion on mental health provision by 2020, the SDLP has called on the Health Minister to make a bid for Barnett Consequentials from the Treasury to resource services here. Any money secured as a result should be ringfenced exclusively for spend on mental health provision, it should not be used to plug gaps elsewhere.
“For too long, mental health provision has been a Cinderella service of our NHS. Chronic underinvestment in mental health services has critically damaged our ability to provide help to those who most need it.
“This isn’t the fault of any individual Health Minister. Back in 2009 when the Bamford Action Plan was being worked through, we expected an additional £44 million for Health, including mental health provision. That was reduced and reduced to £29 million, nowhere near enough to resource the change needed.
“This issue transcends politics. That’s why we’re seeking a cross-party consensus to explore and establish a 24/7 community mental health care model. Providing help to those suffering from poor mental health in a community setting is not only more conducive to positive outcomes but it also reduces acute in-patient admissions, relieving pressure on hospitals. This is a fundamental rethink about how we provide help to those with mental health problems and should include how we assess outcomes. Sometimes securing a job or healing a relationship is a hugely positive result for those struggling and that should be recognised.
“This is a critical issue that needs urgent action.”