Theresa May has unveiled that during her tenure as Prime Minister, if the Conservatives were to win the general election on June 8th, she would overhaul mental health care within the UK. She has stated she would ‘rip up’ the 30-year old act and replace it with a new law that is designed to halt the number of people with mental health conditions being detained by increasing thresholds for detention. However, there has been no word on how this would be funded.

The news will be welcomed by mental health campaigners and professionals alike, however, the steep rise has largely been due to a lack of resources rather than badly drafted laws.

There will be scepticism over the Conservative’s ability to enact without further funding.

The policy

The Conservatives are describing this as the ‘largest overhaul of mental health’ in over 30 years. Currently there were more than 63,000 detained under the Mental Health Act in 2014/15, comparing to 2005/06, this is an increase of more than 43 per cent. Black people are disproportionately affected with 56.9 per 100 patients who spent time in hospital for mental health issues, comparative to just 37.5 per 100 patients who were white.

The Conservatives will commit to a further 10,000 NHS staff by 2020. The new bill would form a series of measures aimed to improve mental health in schools and the workplace.The Equalities Act would also be altered because it affects those who suffer with mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder.

On the surface the plans look good and campaigners, professionals and commentators would find the move welcoming. However, funding and resources has been the reason that a steep hike in the number of detainees has occurred. Their funding plan is vague and by saying that mental health funding will be up by £1.4bn in real terms, does this mean that the money has been there all along or is this at the cost of another service?

The idea that the money will suddenly appear now makes very little sense if you consider the Conservatives have been saying that the country has limited funds for the last 6-7 years.

Real policy or vote winner?

There is also a concern after many U-turns made by the Conservative’s since they have been in power, have been substantial.

Furthermore, they have already cut the NHS services to the bare minimum and to state that mental health funding will have risen in real terms by 2020 is sceptical. They haven’t offered any form of affordability plan, and have just stated that they can afford it but where is the real scrutiny over the aspect?

Any other party would be laughed at whilst there were severe attacks on how this would be afforded. Yet so far there has been little to no mention of how the Conservatives are going to afford such a costly plan and by claiming funding will be up in real terms is a cop out. Plus, mental health issue has risen under Conservative rule, the extensive measure of ripping up a law and rewriting it will cost extra public money rather than just make sure funding and resources are secure for the sector.

It also fails to address the cause of mental health rising in the last 9 years (6-7 of which have been under a Conservative government), their harsh measures on benefits and workers have increased food bank usage and the number of suicides directly linked to DWP measures is astounding. It is merely a vote winner and designed to make it look like they are doing something worthwhile, however, it is the Conservative austerity measures that have been a significant factor as to why there is less funding for mental health and a rise in those suffering from mental health problems.