By the end of the final party conference, you
begin to feel a certain sense of déjà vu with similar issues being
raised with all three parties, in similar looking conference
venues. This is not necessarily a bad thing though as it’s
important that politicians of all political persuasions are made
aware of the key issues for people affected by mental illness and
professionals working in the sector.
At Conservative conference in Birmingham, in
addition to individual meetings, we did some more great joint work
with NGOs and were able to put across a united front at meetings
with parliamentarians and be part of a strong voice on mental
health. As well as our own roundtable meeting on parity, which was
attended by MPs, healthcare professionals, charities and service
users, the College attended meetings on a range of topics,
including commissioning, obesity, early intervention and medical
education. I was also able to attend a public debate on health and
was interested to hear Health Committee Chair, Stephen Dorrell, and
the Guardian’s Polly Toynbee arguing the pros and cons of the
recent changes to the NHS and what the future may hold.
Whilst the Chancellor seems not for turning on
the issue of welfare reform, it is still top of the agenda for many
people with mental health problems, and their families, and many of
the MPs we spoke with recognised that there is room for improvement
in the current system.
Whilst it was a shame that Health Secretary
Jeremy Hunt didn’t directly refer to mental health in his speech to
it was positive to hear him flag up dementia and the importance of
care as two areas he wants to focus on.
I feel it is vital that the College attends
these conferences to represent our members and service users and
fight for continued improvements in mental health. We used the
opportunity to discuss important issues with colleagues from across
the healthcare sector and with local and national politicians. At
all meetings and debates we attended we ensured that the importance
mental health was flagged at every opportunity.
I have the sense that the message on parity is
beginning to get through; that there is no health without public
mental health. Now is the time for you to tell local politicians
why psychiatrists are so important to the health of the nation.
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