Ever since I was elected as an MP, I’ve kept up regular shifts as an NHS hospital doctor.
It’s so important to give back in return for the trust placed in me.
But no training could have prepared me for what I experienced during the Covid pandemic.
Whether I was treating patients, or serving my constituents in Parliament, my view of life changed fundamentally.
We all know the awful toll of statistics: 137,000 dead, 550,000 hospitalised, over two million estimated to be suffering from long Covid.
But less is known about a serious side-effect of the crisis – its impact on people’s mental health. Inevitably, things have been made worse because of a decade of neglect from the Government.
Waiting lists are soaring, hospital admissions for mental illnesses are up, and patients continue to be sent miles away from home for treatment. Shamefully, the Tories have cut a quarter of all mental health beds in England since 2010.
Labour would begin to put things right. We would guarantee mental health treatment within a month for all who need it, ensuring that patients start receiving appropriate treatment – not simply an initial assessment of needs – within a month of being referred.
Labour would recruit 8,500 new staff so one million more people could access treatment every year by the end of our first term in office and ensure mental health gets its fair share every time new funding is provided to the NHS.
Tory ministers are not taking the action we need to end the mental health crisis. Only Labour will enact the real change needed to improve millions of lives.
It breaks my heart, as a frontline medic, to have to tell patients that the services they rely on just are not there anymore, like the addiction support services so many desperately need.
The Government is letting down young people. In 2019/20, 27 per cent were turned away from mental health services despite a referral from a professional. During the pandemic, this figure has soared to 37 per cent of our children.
In A&E, it often feels that the age of those coming in self-harming or with eating disorders is getting younger.
When I first started 15 years ago, it was not uncommon to see teens, but now my colleagues and I are having to treat far too many young children – often pre-teen. How I hate having to be the doctor who tells another teenager that Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services simply can’t come and see them.
That’s why the next Labour Government is committed to providing specialist mental health support in every school, to support pupils and resolve problems before they escalate.
Labour would put a full-time mental health professional in every secondary school and a part-time professional in every primary school.
For all the children who would feel safer accessing mental health support outside of school, Labour is committed to having an open-access mental health hub for children and young people in every community, providing early intervention and drop-in services.
This Conservative Government is failing the mental health needs of our country – only Labour has a truly transformative package to tackle one of the most urgent issues of our time.
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