YP Comment: Wake-up call on mental health. May must put words into action

Theresa May delivering her New year speech on mental health.
Theresa May delivering her New year speech on mental health.
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IT speaks volumes about how attitudes are changing in Britain, and for the better, that Theresa May felt able to choose mental health as the subject of her first major policy speech of 2017.

Evidence that this previously taboo issue can be debated respectfully, the Prime Minister could not have been clearer when she said: “If you suffer from mental health problems, there’s not enough help to hand.”

Mrs May was right. As today’s investigation by The Yorkshire Post reveals, there are vulnerable people from this region having to be treated 60 miles away – despite promises to end “out of area placements” – because of a shortage of psychiatric facilities and medical expertise.

An added pressure for adults, and their relatives, it’s even more shocking when those concerned include teenagers like 15-year-old Maisie Shaw from Hull. As well as suffering from depression and autism, she has a history of self-harm.

Yet, in the past three years, she’s been treated at 10 different locations – including Manchester – because of a shortage of beds and the strain of being separated from her family for prolonged periods is taking its toll. She’s currently in hospital in Leeds.

Though the NHS is invariably judged by A&E waiting times, and now the number of ‘delayed discharges’ due to the social care crisis, pressure on hospitals will only intensify if the Government does not invest sufficient sums in psychiatric services. After all, a by-product of the increased awareness about mental health is that more patients will seek help in the future.

Though it will take time for Ministers to achieve parity of esteem between physical and mental health, they need to ensure that the latest shake-up of NHS service recognises the importance of this issue and does not leave care to chance.

About time too – belated Brexit plan for region

GIVEN that Theresa May is due to trigger Article 50 by the end of the month, a move which could begin as early as Tuesday if elected MPs quash the amendments passed by the unelected House of Lords by then, it’s reassuring that Yorkshire’s local authority leaders now appear to be preparing a strategy of sorts.

Unfortunately it’s a sad reflection on the uneasy relationships that exist between some of this region’s councils – a legacy of this county’s devolution deadlock – that it has taken nearly nine months since last June’s EU referendum for them to realise that this region needs a voice in the forthcoming negotiations.

Irrespective of whether there’s a Yorkshire-wide mayor, or separate leadership arrangements for each city-region, this county’s political, business and civic leaders should have been forming a strategy on June 24 last year.

That they did not do so, for whatever reason, means they only have themselves to blame for rival regions stealing a march and utilising their influence to ensure that the needs of the North – a part of country which has benefited from EU regeneration funds previously – are not unduly neglected. In turn, Brexit Secretary David Davis – the Haltemprice and Howden MP – shouldn’t restrict invitations to his forthcoming summit to city-mayors. He, too, should be consulting widely, not least with his own region.

A retrograde step – Wainwright legacy threatened

THE surprise is that the Coast to Coast walk that so inspired Alf Wainwright has not already been designated as a national trail.

The even greater surprise was the indifference of Farms Minister George Eustice when his Tory colleague Rishi Sunak, the Richmond MP, made the case in Parliament.

This is one of the world’s great walks – even Theresa May, a renowned hiker, chose Wainwright’s guide as a gift to Germany’s Angela Merkel when the two leaders met last year.

Yet, while inferior trails have been given special status, this iconic walk – and the maintenance of footpaths – is at the mercy of local government spending cuts because Defra is not prepared to invest £100,000 a year towards its upkeep.

Not only is such blinkered thinking a retrograde step, but it’s also a false economy. If the network of paths are preserved and maintained, more ramblers will use them. And that means spin-offs for the wider rural economy.

It’s not local campaigners who are out of step. It’s the Minister for taking such a false step when communities in the three national parks that straddle the route had every right to expect better of him.