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Health secretary Jeremy Hunt told mental health Panorama was “shocking and disgusting”

PUBLISHED: 13:48 07 February 2017 | UPDATED: 15:54 07 February 2017

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

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An MP has told health secretary Jeremy Hunt that the findings of a special investigation BBC programme into mental health services, which focused on Norfolk and Suffolk, were “shocking and disgusting”.

Luciana Berger, a former shadow mental health minister, said she was “ashamed to live in a country” where there had been more than a thousand more unexpected deaths under the care of NHS mental health trusts nationally.

Panorama highlighted how a sharp rise in the number of mental health patients dying unexpectedly with the responsible organisation cutting nearly a quarter of its inpatient beds.

It highlighted how the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust cut 136 psychiatric beds from 2012 onwards – even though demand continued to rise.

At the same time – as highlighted previously by this newspaper – the number of unexpected deaths has risen sharply.

An unexpected death is classed as one where the cause could not be anticipated. It can be suicide, natural causes, a physical illness or an accident and includes anyone who has been treated by the trust in the six months before their death.

Ms Berger was one of a number of MPs to raise the findings of the programme in the House of Commons today. She said: “Further to the very important question from my honourable friend from Bermondsey and Old Southwark [about the Panorama documentary], members across this house might have seen that documentary last night and frankly it was shocking and disgusting, and I am ashamed to live in a country where there have been a thousand more unexpected deaths. It is not a reflection of a country that cares equally about mental health as it does about physical health and in spite of what the secretary of state just told us, the money he talks about is not getting to where it is intended.

“What is he [Jeremy Hunt] actually going to do to ensure that no person in our country, not one single person, should lose their life because they have a mental health condition, and they are not being treated properly,”she added.

Shadow health minister Barbara Keeley also spoke. She said: “Last night, a Panorama programme showed that mental health services are not funded properly.

“At the Norfolk and Suffolk Mental Health Trust, funding cuts led to community teams being disbanded, loss of staff and the loss of inpatient psychiatric beds.

“Most disturbing of all is to hear parents talk of what happens to their children when they are denied support in a crisis, self-harming or suicidal but no in-patient beds.

“One parent called it a ‘living nightmare’.

“We don’t need any more warm words from (Mr Hunt). What we need is action to make sure mental health services are properly funded and properly staffed.”

Mr Hunt said the proportion of budgets for clinical commissioning groups being allocated on mental health has risen from 12.5% to 13.1%, adding this is an increase of £342 million.

He agreed that “a huge amount needed to be done” to improve mental health provision, but said they were committing money, claiming Britain was becoming a “global” leader in mental health provision.

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