Unite the Union responds to the Health and Care Policy Commission Consultation on Mental Health

Unite completes the submission to the Health and Care Policy Commission Consultation Mental Health: the way forward

This submission was made by Unite, which is the UK’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members across all sectors of the economy including health, local government, the not for profit sector, manufacturing, financial services, transport, food and agriculture, construction, energy and utilities, information technology, and service industries. Unite also works to enable those in the community who are not in employment to be part of their union. The consultation had significant input from the Applied Psychology OPC which Danny and Julia Mikardo, ACP Union Reps, sit on. This is one way in which the ACP has a voice, and can be a route to ministers.

In their response, Unite welcomes the Labour Party commitment to investing to create strong and sustainable economic growth that will lay the foundations for, and build, a re-balanced economy that can deliver good work and prosperity across the country. It also welcomes Labour’s commitment to extend people’s rights within the workplace, believing that such measures should include a legal framework encouraging greater collective bargaining and stronger trade unions. 

It strongly welcomes Labour’s previous commitment to mental health as a priority and supports there being a shadow minister whose sole focus is mental health - this sends a powerful message across the political establishment that mental health is a serious issue. (This post no longer exists in the shadow cabinet). The response goes on to say that Unite has a significant interest in mental health issues both because members are service users or support those at work with mental health problems, and because Unite represents a significant number of members who work in mental health services. These include a large membership in the NHS working in mental health nursing, clinical psychology and other related professions, as well as members in local authorities, social care and the not for profit sector that support people in the community.

Unite argues that a lot of the preventative work needed in mental health services could be done through the education sector. For instance, every nursery and every school should have a counsellor or a mental health worker, clinically supervised and helped by a specialist NHS CAMHS professional. It also insists that every mother who has had babies or children removed should be given specialist adult mental health support as a matter of policy, and should be seen by specialist child mental health therapists after giving birth to her next child and all children in foster care should have an allocated mental health worker as a matter of policy; these workers should be funded by Social Care, and supervised by NHS child mental health specialist and skilled professionals in this field. 

Unite states the case for how these changes would save CAMHS and the NHS substantial amounts of money and time which are currently being wasted on meeting the needs of managers and bureaucrats in Foundation Trust's infra-structures, instead of resources meeting the needs of children and families through enabling them to work with qualified and skilled professionals.

It highlights professional staffing priorites and how due to the financial pressures that the NHS is under, families in CAMHS have increasingly been seen by cheaper, often unqualified workers. It makes the point that the emotional needs of children and families, when not met early can cause a chain of events that lead to serious mental illness. 

Other points inlcude challenging the medical and business models underpinning Foundation Trusts which, it argues are misplaced when designing child and family mental health services, supporting the continuation for funding of specialist trainings such as ours and the need for a committment to an NHS that is publicly owned, publicly funded, publicly provided and accountable, free at the point of delivery, and delivered on the basis of need and not the ability to pay. ACP members can read the full consultation here.