Speaking Up for Mental Health Services

Mental health provision has long been an issue very close to my heart. I have seen first-hand how mental health issues affect friends and family members and can destroy lives. 

My own father sadly suffered a complete and tragic life collapse as a result of a toxic mix of head injuries, a career dependency on gambling and untreated mental illness including depression and alcoholism. Just ten years after winning the 1958 Grand National as the Queen Mother’s jockey, these issues meant he lost his marriage, livelihood and access to his children.

I also saw the devastation that mental health can inflict upon the families of my friends – including the suicide of a late friend’s son after years of battling bipolar disorder.

Each life lost is one too many.

That’s why I take mental health services so seriously – doing as much as I can in my role as a Member of Parliament to shine a light on the issue and help bring about the improved services, treatment and support we need.

I believe strongly that the key to ending the “cinderella-ism” of mental health is a full and deep alignment of mental health into the NHS itself (through patient pathways, proper service planning and the like). The decision by the Government in 2012 to enshrine parity of esteem for physical and mental health in law was a great step forward, and we have seen a lot of positive progress being made to tackle this issue.

Much more must be done however to drive up standards in Norfolk – as proved by the situation at Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) over recent years and the many patients that have died as a result of failings.

That’s why I have been clear that this has to stop – and again, in January 2024, raised the matter with ministers in the House (see here).

In March 2024, alongside Clive Lewis MP, I welcomed campaigners to Parliament to meet with Norfolk and Suffolk MPs and present to the Minister in person (see here).

Together, we are calling for the new leadership to be honest about the mistakes, learn the lessons, apologise and put the voices of patients and their loved ones at the heart of a serious program of reform – and have set out a clear set of actions for us to take forward (see my video below).

Rest assured, I am determined to do all I can.

I also continue to work hard on mental health support through other initiatives, such as The Bridge of Hope charity I set up in memory of my late father in 2018 to help those suffering with poor mental health and/or a life collapse as they look for a route back into employment.

To stay up to date with much of my work on this vital issue, please check my updates below.

Following the NSFT summit in Parliament convened by George Freeman MP and Clive Lewis MP the following actions were agreed:

  • Letter to Minister Caulfield to highlight need for reform and DHSC scrutiny of the Grant Thornton Report re 8000 deaths
  • Minister to meet NSFT next week
  • Letter to NSFT from Norfolk and Suffolk MPs highlighting scale and urgency of reform
  • MPs to cross examine NSFT leadership on; lessons learnt, reforms being implemented, and latest data - with Mark Harrison and Governors.
  • Request DHSC select committee launch an enquiry
  • Debates in Parliament
  • Research national Mental Health Trusts and identify best practise to inform options for NSFT reform
Mental Health - Latest News