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Government pledge to end mental health treatment gap by 2020 will actually take a 'generation' to achieve, health secretary admits

The Independent logo The Independent 29/10/2018 Benjamin Kentish
Matthew Hancock wearing a suit and tie © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited

Bringing mental health services up to the standard of those for physical health will take "a generation", the health secretary has admitted, despite the government having previously promised to achieve it by 2020.

Despite concerns over the state of mental health services, Matt Hancock said it would take years to fulfil the pledge to achieve "parity of esteem".

It comes as Philip Hammond, the Chancellor, prepares to deliver a Budget that will include a cash boost for mental health services.

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More on this story:

Budget 2018 LIVE: Latest news and reaction ahead of the chancellor's speech (Evening Standard)

Hammond loosens Budget purse strings after May announces end of austerity (Press Association)

Tax rises and pension cuts expected in the Chancellor's final Budget before Brexit (Daily Mail)

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As part of the government's £20bn of additional funding for the NHS, £2bn will be used to provide specialist mental health support in every A&E department, more specialist ambulances and mental health teams in schools.

The Coalition government in 2012 committed to "parity of esteem" by 2020 and the aim was enshrined in law in the 2012 Health and Social Care Act.

But asked when he expected to achieve parity, Mr Hancock said it was "the work of a generation" and would not necessarily be achieved within the NHS' next ten-year plan.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today: "This plan is over a ten-year period. The work to put mental health services on the same footing as physical health services is the work of a generation."

Asked about figures showing that by 2020/20 two thirds of children would not have access to the mental health services they need, he said: "I think that if we had those sort of figures for figures for physical illnesses then people would rightly be up in arms and so we're going to tackle that, absolutely."

The claim is likely to prompt concerns about the pace of improvement to mental health services, which professionals say are at breaking point.

Chancellor Philip Hammond putting the finishing touches on his budget speech. © PA Chancellor Philip Hammond putting the finishing touches on his budget speech.

Mr Hancock has previously admitted that there remains a significant gap between mental health and other services, saying: “It’s still way off where we need to be.”

He told Today that the increased funding for the NHS would not be impacted by a no-deal Brexit, despite Mr Hammond having warned that his plans will have to be redrawn if Britain crashes out of the EU.

He said: "The extra £20 billion for the NHS is coming. We'll see it in the figures today and that is irrespective of the deal that we get on Brexit.

"Now, I think that we'll get a good deal on Brexit and there's evidence that a good deal will lead to more money in the economy."

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