Can I tell Members on the Government Benches a little bit about the mental health crisis in Newham? We have a rocketing population that is young, with no commitment from this Government that health funding will rise to match it. We have almost 41,000 children living in poverty. We have the highest proportion in the country of people living in damp, mouldy, overcrowded temporary accommodation. All of these people have no sense of security in their home at all: they do not know when their local ties will be shattered yet again by a forced move.
As we know, all of this impacts on mental health, and particularly on the mental health of children. I see that constantly in my casework, and local health leaders tell me exactly the same thing. It can hardly be a surprise to the Government that the number of young people being referred to mental health services is 30% up in Newham alone. Cases are increasingly more complex, more urgent and more in danger of spiralling into deep crisis.
Newham is the most diverse borough in the country, with the second highest rate of GP registrations by migrants. Our diversity has massive benefits, and I love it, but it requires clinicians to adapt their way of caring for people with different cultural backgrounds and languages. Despite all that, Newham’s mental health spend is the lowest in London. With all those challenges, our clinicians and our health leaders are obviously struggling to meet their targets. Average waits in Newham between referral, assessment and treatment were at 12 weeks in 2021. Some patients are waiting for as long as a year, and that is after they have had a referral, which as we know is terribly difficult to access.
Our local mental health unit, which deals with only the most severe needs, is at 98% occupancy—far in excess of the clinical standard. Quality of care and patient care and safety are suffering. There is a dire shortage of specialist mental health beds for our older adults. We have older people waiting for long periods on utterly inappropriate wards and in beds that are no doubt sorely needed for those waiting for other hospital treatments. Many patients with mental health crises are waiting in emergency departments for more than 12 hours, and local health leaders are worried that those numbers will increase. Our mental health services are struggling even to react to some of the most dire situations, let alone being able to offer proactive support that prevents mental illnesses getting worse.
We are creating even more problems—greater problems for the future, greater costs for the Government, greater costs for the NHS, more antisocial behaviour, more homelessness and rough sleeping, and massive wasted economic and social potential. People’s lives are being devastated by treatable ill health and completely avoidable misery. If we are not sitting in this place to avoid that, why are we here?
Labour’s plan to transform mental health treatment is desperately needed in Newham, along with thousands more mental health staff and professionals in every school and accessible mental health hubs in every community. We sorely need a preventive approach so that we can bring this crisis to an end, and we need it now. Can I use my last 30 seconds to look at the Minister and ask whether she will meet me and my health providers and health leaders in Newham to talk about the massive underfunding that our borough and my community face?