Issued: 26 May 2017

Response to manifestos from Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Labour

The British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies (BABCP)¹ welcomes the focus on mental health that is present in the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat manifestos.

Mental health problems affect 1 in 4 people in the UK and Ireland, and can affect any one of us. It is important that everyone has access to a range of evidence-based psychological therapies, including cognitive behavioural therapies, as well as the possibility of medical intervention if needed. Access to talking therapies needs to be timely, and practitioners need to be properly trained and well supported. Approximately half of people with a mental health problem present to services by the age of 14, and helping children and adolescents to cope with difficulties early on is crucial.

We welcome approaches in England to improve access to psychological treatments and equivalent attempts to increase capacity in mental health services in Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Ireland.

However, the National Health Service has been chronically and critically underfunded and mental healthcare in particular has not received adequate funding or protection. Help for children and adolescents with mental health problems has been particularly neglected. With additional strain on social care facilities, mental healthcare and access to psychological therapies including cognitive behavioural therapy is not adequate. We call for equivalence of priority for mental and physical health.

Independent charity the Kings Fund have estimated a shortfall in NHS funding of at least £22 billion. Labour are pledging £30 billion to the NHS, the Conservatives are pledging £8 billion, and the Liberal Democrats are pledging £6 billion.

Labour, Liberal Democrat and Conservative manifestos all recognise the need for more mental health support. They all recognise the need for more help specifically for children and adolescents. Levels of funding pledged to do this differ widely. Labour clearly promise to ringfence funding for mental health and Liberal Democrats suggest they will do this too.

Labour and Liberal Democrat manifestos recognise the demoralisation of NHS staff, promising to lift the NHS salary cap. The Conservative manifesto promises more NHS staff but with no clear plan of how to achieve this when current jobs are underfilled.

The BABCP is committed to supporting access to evidence-based talking therapies for all, including children and young people. The BABCP supports staff who are providing cognitive behavioural therapy in NHS, third sector or independent practice. All major parties are recognising the importance of mental illness, which the BABCP welcomes, but unless mental healthcare funding is significantly increased and ringfenced it is unlikely there will be adequate provision of talking therapies for adults, children and adolescents.

¹ BABCP calls on all parties to commit themselves to prioritising access to high quality evidence-based talking therapies. The BABCP asks all parties to actively promote accreditation, properly fund continuing professional development and access to supervision, and move towards proper regulation of psychotherapy and counselling to allow safe and effective therapies for all.