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New support announced for MPs with mental health problems

12 February 2013

Existing commissioning arrangements make it difficult for Members of Parliament to access mental health treatments. The only option for most MPs is to access services locally but their profile in the community, and their frequent contact with local health care commissioners, mean MPs are often unwilling to take this path because of the existing stigma and discrimination surrounding mental health.

The House of Commons is committed to helping MPs with mental health issues and has agreed to provide support for Members of Parliament to access mental health services and treatment. At its meeting on Monday 11 February 2013, the House of Commons Members Estimate Committee (MEC) approved limited funding to allow MPs to be referred and receive treatment while in Westminster.

On 14 June 2012 MPs from all parties spoke in a House of Commons debate on mental health. A number of MPs discussed their own mental health experiences during the debate including Kevan Jones, Charles Walker (All Party Parliamentary Group for Mental Health Chair), Andrea Leadsom and Health Select Committee member, Dr Sarah Wollaston.

The MEC has agreed to fund a mental health referrals service for MPs - operated by doctors contracted at the House of Commons - which will provide MPs access to secondary care and treatment. The referral service and treatment fund will have an annual budget of £25,000 and the referral criteria will conform to NHS guidelines.[1]

Kevan Jones MP, Member of Parliament for North Durham, said:

“It’s not easy for MPs to go to their own GP to talk about issues such as depression or anxiety. I welcome this decision from the Members Estimate Committee to help remedy this situation.  This is not about preferential treatment. It’s about giving MPs the opportunity to find solutions here in Westminster and have access to the types of services available to their constituents.“

John Thurso MP, Spokesman for the Members Estimate Committee said:

“All conscientious employers want to help those with mental health issues and often assistance in accessing help is the first vital step. Being an MP is a privilege but brings particular stresses as we heard in the debate in June. It is therefore appropriate for us to take this initiative to assist Members access the help they need.”

Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, said:

“The stigma facing people with mental health problems often means that they do not access the support or services they need and deserve. Mind welcomes the MEC’s initiative to provide a service which will provide treatment to MPs which they otherwise may not get. Mind’s ‘Taking Care of Business’ campaign aims to raise awareness of the importance of mental wellbeing in the workplace and what employers can do to achieve this.

"Our aim is that all workplaces, and the House of Commons is no exception, strive for a mentally healthy working environment.”

The Houses of Parliament Safety, Health & Wellbeing Service supports Parliament in developing a healthy and safe working environment and encouraging people to have a positive attitude to health at work. The House also offers pastoral support. Rev Rose Hudson-Wilkin, the Speaker’s Chaplain, provides confidential personal support for individual MPs.

[1]The Parliamentary Safety, Health and Wellbeing Service (SHWS) will operate the mental health referral service. The SHWS team offers specialist medical advice, guidance and support and includes two occupational health doctors from St Thomas’ Hospital.