Corbyn Appoints Minister for Mental Health in New Shadow Cabinet Role

As part of the process of his taking over the leadership of the Labour party, Jeremy Corbyn has appointed a shadow “Minister for Mental Health”.

Luciana Berger is the new addition to the Corbyn shadow cabinet.

Berger will have a remit to specifically focus on mental health issues, and consider how the NHS can tackle them more effectively in the immediate future.

A Corbyn-led Labour government would apparently prioritise this issue, as evidenced by the fact that this post is a new creation of Corbyn’s shadow administration.

There is no equivalent to position within the Conservative government.

Aside from the uniqueness of the position, it is also notable that this shadow cabinet role will be carried out by a female member of Parliament.

Corybn was keen to emphasise in a statement that the Labour party had “delivered a unifying, dynamic, inclusive new Shadow Cabinet which for the first time ever has a majority of women. I am delighted that we have established a Shadow Cabinet position for mental health which is a matter I have long been interested in.”

Berger is the MP for Liverpool Wavertree, and was elected initially to the seat in 2010. She is notable for having created a film entitled ‘Breadline Britain’, examining food poverty within the UK and its implications.

To demonstrate his commitment to mental health, Corbyn spent his first day as leader attending a fundraiser organised by Camden & Islington NHS Mental Health Trust; his local trust.

In addition, Corbyn has demonstrated in parliamentary speeches before becoming leader of the Labour Party that mental health is a subject of some importance to him.

In a speech in Parliament in February, Corbyn outlined his attitude to mental health and why he considered the subject of critical importance.

“All of us can go through depression; all of us can go through those experiences. Every single one of us in this Chamber knows people who have gone through it, and has visited people who have been in institutions and have fully recovered and gone back to work and continued their normal life,” Corby stated.

“I dream of the day when this country becomes as accepting of these problems as some Scandinavian countries are, where one Prime Minister was given six months off in order to recover from depression, rather than being hounded out of office as would have happened on so many other occasions,” the Labour leader continued.

Bergen will be asked to concentrate on ensuring that treatment is delivered in a timely and appropriate fashion.

Corbyn also stated that processes involved in the recognition of mental disabilities within the Department for Work and Pensions would be refined under a Labour government.

The shadow cabinet has been announced by Corbyn as he continues to put in place the structure that will form the parliamentary Labour party under his tutelage.

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Suicide Rate in Scotland Declines in New Figures

New figures published indicate that the suicide rate in Scotland has declined significantly over the last decade.

The Scottish suicide rate reduced by 17.8 percent between the periods 2000-2004 and 2010-2014, according to statistics published by SD Scotland and National Record of Scotland.

There was also a fall over the last twelve months, with 696 people having committed suicide in 2014, compared with 795 in 2013.

It is also noteworthy that the figures were even more historically significant once the new accounting system is taken into consideration.

National Records of Scotland has recently changed the way that suicides are recorded.

Under the old system, the number of suicides in 2014 would in fact be the lowest recorded since 1977.

The decline in suicides in Scotland could be attributed to numerous measures put in place by the authorities.

It is particularly notable that this statistic is decreasing at a time of economic challenges for many people; usually an indicator of high suicide rates.

Measures taken in order to combat suicide in Scotland have included the establishment of a Scottish Suicide Information Database, extensive training in suicide awareness among NHS frontline workers, the recruitment of Choose Life Co-ordinators to the majority of Scottish local authorities, and a raft of campaigns intended to raise awareness of the issue nationally.

These initiatives collectively are part of the overall three-year Suicide Prevention Strategy that was put in place by the Scottish government in 2013.

Speaking on the issue, Jamie Hepburn, Minister for Sport, Health Improvement and Mental Health, was cautiously optimistic about the figures.

“Any suicide is a tragedy, but the reduction of 17.8 per cent represents a particularly welcome development. This would not have been possible without the dedication of the professionals who work in this often challenging field,” Hepburn stated.

“We know that suicide rates are strongly related to deprivation levels, I am pleased to see that this inequality has decreased in recent years,” Hepburn continued.

Alana Atkinson, Lead for the National Programme for Suicide Prevention at NHS Health Scotland was encouraged by “the continuing declining trend in suicides in Scotland” and particularly welcomed the fact that “the inequalities in suicide rates associated with deprivation have decreased in both absolute and relative terms for males, and in absolute terms for females.”

Further suicide statistics for Scotland can be viewed at

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WMAHSN Health and Wealth Economic Summit 2015 Announced

The latest edition of the West Midlands Academic Health Science Network (WMAHSN) will offer insight to a wide variety of healthcare professionals.

This free event will take place on Tuesday 13 October from 9.45am – 4pm at the Garden Suite, Birmingham Botanical Gardens.

The 2015 edition of this event is particularly noteworthy as it will launch the SME innovation fund, Innovation and Adoption Service and industry gateway.

Professionals involved with the healthcare, along with relevant academics, will have the opportunity to gain important information on the latest opportunities in healthcare.

There will be a particular focus on improving health holistically and creating wealth within a healthcare environment.

Collaboarting with stakeholders in a wide variety of healthcare settings will be another major topic of the event.

The WMAHSN is a relatively new body, designated by NHS England on Thursday 23th May, 2013. The WMAHSN Network purports to “creates and support an environment in which the health and wealth of the population of the West Midlands can improve and prosper.”

This latest event will update attendees on the achievements of the organisation over the last twelve months, with particular attention given to the seven point growth plan that the WMAHSN has put in place.

Delegates will be given the opportunity to pose questions during an extensive question time session, with a particular focus on discussing the Innovation and Adoption Service and industry innovation support.

Lunch and refreshments will be provided throughout the day. On-site car parking and Wi-Fi will also be made available.

Interested parties can register for the WMAHSN Health and Wealth Economic Summit by clicking here.

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Mental health services “suffering” says Mind

Funding for mental health services provided by NHS trusts has fallen by more than 8 percent in real terms over the last five years according to new research.

Figures from 43 mental health trusts obtained by the online journal Community Care and the BBC under the Freedom of Information Act show that total funding for the trusts’ mental health services dropped in real terms by 8.25 per cent, or almost £600m (inflation adjusted).

“These figures reveal the true extent of cuts to mental health services over recent years”, said Mind’s Chief Executive Paul Farmer. “This week, the government announced extra funding for children and young people’s mental health services, a reflection of the scale of under resourcing. The figures clearly show that the rest of mental health services are suffering just as much and need significant investment.

“The impact of these cuts falls squarely on patient care. Bed shortages, cuts to frontline nursing posts and long waiting times for therapy have been well-documented in the last couple of years and, at the same time, demand has been increasing as more and more people come forward and seek help. The treatment gap for mental health is huge – 75 percent of people with mental health problems get no help at all. Meanwhile, many more are being turned away from services when they need them the most, left to cope alone with self-harm and suicidal thoughts.

“The next government will need to hit the ground running on mental health. Those in power can no longer ignore the fundamental truth that services only work when they are properly resourced. We need to see a permanent increase in the NHS mental health budget of at least £1bn if we are to reverse the damage caused by years of neglect and recent cuts.”

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DH launches consultation on proposed changes to NHS Constitution

The Department of Health (DH) has launched a new consultation on proposed changes to the NHS Constitution.

The proposed changes are a direct response to the recommendations made by Sir Robert Francis QC in his Freedom to Speak Up Review (published on 11 February).

Amongst several proposals, the Government is looking to amend the NHS Constitution to: (i) give greater prominence to mental health; (ii) reflect the importance of access to transparent and comparable data; (ii) include the Armed Forces Covenant: and (iv) reflect the new fundamental standards.

The consultation document states: “By April 2015, we will see changes to the way hospitals are inspected, with the introduction of new fundamental standards. Failure to meet these standards, and an inability to meet the high standards patients expect and deserve, will result in decisive action to protect patients. It is also of upmost importance to promote a culture of openness within our NHS, which we hope to achieve through the introduction of the duty of candour.

“We need to close the gap between physical and mental health, and we believe that the NHS Constitution should make it clear that both are of equal importance. We believe that these important policies deserve to take their place amongst the core principles, values and responsibilities of the NHS – and should be set out clearly in the rights and pledges we make to patients.”

The consultation on the changes to the NHS Constitution – a set of principles which encompass patient, public and staff rights and the ‘responsibilities owed to each other to ensure the NHS operates fairly and effectively’- will formally close on 11 March 2015.





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NHS England sets out guidance on new mental health standards

Following the announcement (by NHS England and the Department of Health) in October 2014 of the need for measures  to improve access to mental health services, NHS England has produced guidance which sets out how new access and waiting time standards for mental health services are to be introduced.

Created for clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), the new NHS England guidance explains the case for change in four areas and sets out the expectations of local commissioners for delivery during 2015 and beyond.

NHS England says that the new guidance is a major step towards the Five Year Forward View commitment towards integrating physical and mental health care.

“It (the guidance) marks an important milestone for mental health services”, said Dr Geraldine Strathdee, NHS England national clinical director for mental health. “This will change the lives of young adolescents and adults with psychosis and they will no longer face an almost inevitable future of 20 years premature mortality from poor physical and mental health.

“The guidance is the first step to working with commissioners and providers, community leaders and workforce education bodies to make this happen.

 “These services will support patients in mental health crisis who come to A&Es, patients on acute wards, and in long term conditions outpatient clinics.”

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