Former UK cabinet secretary joins ‘cross-society campaign’ on mental health

By on 04/11/2015 | Updated on 25/09/2020
Former UK Cabinet Secretary, Lord O'Donnell, speaking at GGF's Global Government Summit
Former UK Cabinet Secretary, Lord O'Donnell, speaking at GGF's Global Government Summit

Former UK cabinet secretary Lord O’Donnell has joined a call for increased investment in mental health services, ahead of a key government announcement on strategic spending priorities.

O’Donnell who retired from his top civil service post in 2011 and now chairs consultancy Frontier Economics, joined more than 200 key figures from the worlds of business, politics, sport and culture who signed an open letter asking the government to “help reduce the suffering of those with mental ill healths.”

It comes ahead of the comprehensive spending review, which will set out the government’s fiscal strategy for the next three years on 25 November.

The letter highlights the economic cost of mental ill health, including the burden on the National Health Service (NHS) and police, unemployment and homelessness.

It argues that people who experience mental ill health do not get a fair deal from the NHS relative to those with physical conditions, and sets out concerns including long waiting times, budget cuts, lack of access to services, poor health and employment outcomes.

“We have joined together to mount a cross-party, campaign aimed at persuading the government to help reduce the suffering of those with mental ill health by increasing investment into the provision of mental health services,” the letter says.

It continues: “As ministers make final decisions on the spending review, we urge them to treat mental health equally with physical health. We ask for the same right to timely access to evidence based treatment as those with physical health problems.

“We accept, and urge ministers to accept, that this will require additional investment in mental health services. But we are strongly persuaded that sustained investment in mental health services will lead to significant returns for the Exchequer, both by reducing the burden on the NHS through the improved wellbeing of our citizens, and by helping people to stay in, or get back into work.”

Signatories also include former health secretaries Alan Milburn, Andy Burnham MP, Ken Clarke MP, Patricia Hewitt and Stephen Dorrell, as well as former chief executive of the NHS Lord Crisp.

In his official launch of the spending review this July, chancellor George Osborne said that there would be additional investment in the NHS, but did not specify whether extra money would go towards mental healthcare.

He said that the additional investment would “ensure that the NHS becomes a seven-day service by 2020-21” and made just one reference to mental health when he stated that “over this Parliament the NHS will continue to improve quality, choice and clinical outcomes in areas such as cancer, dementia and mental health.”

The Treasury has said it does not comment on the spending review until it is published later this month.


See also: our full interview with Lord O’Donnell

About Winnie Agbonlahor

Winnie is news editor of Global Government Forum. She previously reported for Civil Service World - the trade magazine for senior UK government officials. Originally from Germany, Winnie first came to the UK in 2006 to study a BA in Journalism & Russian at the University of Sheffield. She is bilingual in English and German, and, after spending an academic year abroad in Russia and reporting for the Moscow Times, Winnie also speaks Russian fluently.

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