Doctors should be encouraging patients with mental health conditions to get back into work rather than just “thinking about the sickness”, a former health minister has said.
Lib Dem MP Norman Lamb said a change of mindset was required with mental health and GPs needed to focus on recovery through work.
Mr Lamb, who served as a health minister in the coalition government, was supported by Labour MP Luciana Berger who said it was “staggering” that so few people with mental health conditions were in work.
Speaking in the Commons, Mr Lamb praised the individual placement and support programme, which helps people with mental health conditions to gain and keep paid employment, and welcomed the £8.5 million of Government funding announced last year for a “randomised control trial” to target people in primary care.
He said: “Meaningful work, where you gain a sense of dignity and self respect is really important.
“We are undertaking with Government support £8.5 million for a randomised control trial applying a really strong evidence approach which is called individual placement and support where you give people intensive support to get them ready for employment but get them then into a proper job and then support them in that job.
“We’re looking at how you can apply that in primary care so that you capture people earlier, you get them access to someone who can train them and support them for employment, you change the mindset of GPs so that they’re not just thinking about the sickness of their patient but how they can help them recover and get back into work.”
Ms Berger (Liverpool, Wavertree), who has previously served as Labour’s mental health spokesman, shared her shock that “just 3%” of people with mental health conditions in Merseyside were in work.
She said: “It is a staggering fact and it should concern us all, we should be doing everything possible to support people with mental ill health conditions into the workplace.”
The comments came as MPs debated a backbench Commons motion which stated that the UK was “facing a mental health crisis”.
Health minister Jackie Doyle-Price said the Government recognised that mental health first aid “has a role in the Government’s ambitious strategy to transform workplace mental health”, but said “on its own it’s not enough”.
She said: “We wouldn’t want to have legislation that essentially became a floor in service in terms of mental health.”
Ms Doyle-Price added: “I do think we have to be very careful about honing down on one simple measure of supporting mental health in the workplace rather than encouraging a more holistic culture of supporting well-being.”