UK Politics

Mental health treatment funding approved for MPs

Houses of Parliament
Image caption "Being an MP is a privilege but brings particular stresses," a committee spokesman said

MPs will be entitled to receive mental health treatment in Westminster, a parliamentary committee has announced.

The Commons Members Estimate Committee has approved an annual budget of £25,000 to help MPs with mental health problems access treatment.

It is hard for MPs to access mental health services in their constituencies because of "their profile in the community", the committee said.

The arrangement was not "preferential treatment", Labour MP Kevan Jones said.

Mr Jones, the MP for North Durham, said: "It's not easy for MPs to go to their own GP to talk about issues such as depression or anxiety. I welcome this decision from the Members Estimate Committee to help remedy this situation.

'Fruitcake'

"This is not about preferential treatment. It's about giving MPs the opportunity to find solutions here in Westminster and have access to the types of services available to their constituents."

The committee said MPs were "often unwilling" to seek treatment in their constituencies because of "their frequent contact with local healthcare commissioners".

Under the plans, doctors will be contracted to work at the House of Commons.

In a Commons debate in June 2012 on mental health, Mr Jones told MPs he had suffered from "quite a deep depression related to work issues" in 1996.

He said he had "thought very long and hard" about whether to speak publicly about the matter.

"Like a lot of men, you try and deal with it yourself. You don't talk to people. I just hope you realise, Mr Speaker, what I'm saying is very difficult right now."

Another MP taking part in the debate, the Conservatives' Charles Walker, said he was a "practising fruitcake" as he described how he had lived with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder for more than 30 years.

The pair earned praise from charities for their "historic" speeches.

'Legal discrimination'

Spokesman for the committee and Lib Dem MP John Thurso said: "All conscientious employers want to help those with mental health issues and often assistance in accessing help is the first vital step.

"Being an MP is a privilege but brings particular stresses as we heard in the debate in June. It is therefore appropriate for us to take this initiative to assist members to access the help they need."

In a separate development, a Private Member's Bill that will end a ban on people who have had serious mental health problems being MPs completed its passage through Parliament on Monday.

Currently, MPs detained under the Mental Health Act for more than six months are stripped of their seat.

Tory MP Gavin Barwell, whose Mental Health (Discrimination) Bill won government backing, told the Commons in September 2012: "The current law is both discriminatory and an ass."

He said: "My bill's purpose is very simple: to tackle the last legal form of discrimination in our society. To our shame the law of the land still discriminates against those with a mental health condition.

"An MP or a company director can be removed from their job because of mental ill health even if they go on to make a full recovery."

The legislation will now go for royal assent, and the provisions relating to MPs will come into force within two months.

More on this story