Jeremy Hunt has reportedly been making “false claims” to parliament about the number of staff working in NHS mental health services. But he didn’t make the “false claim” once. He said it twice.
On Tuesday 10 October, which was World Mental Health Day, Hunt was taking oral questions in parliament. And he said that the number of staff working in NHS mental health services had increased by 30,000 since 2010.
And he used this figure not once, but twice:
Channel 4‘s FactCheck spotted this – and immediately approached the Department of Health (DoH). FactCheck noted:
Jeremy Hunt admits false claims over mental health…
The Department for Health admitted that Mr Hunt’s figure includes all professionally qualified clinical NHS staff in England – not just those working in mental health.
They said the official transcript of parliamentary businesses will be edited to rectify this.
The DoH told FactCheck:
This was an error and we will be correcting Hansard accordingly.
But as of 13:32 on Thursday 12 October, the DoH still hadn’t updated Hansard:
FactCheck didn’t leave Hunt’s “false claims” there. It used NHS Digital to actually see how many staff work in NHS mental health services. And it found that the numbers had only increased by 692 since 2010, or 0.87%. FactCheck also noted:
What’s more, although there has been a small increase in mental health staffing overall, this has largely been driven by an expansion in psychotherapy. Most other areas have seen staff numbers fall or stay the same.
Most notably, mental health nurse levels have dropped by more than 5,000 since 2010.
And mental health nurses are not the only thing the Tories have cut. Because since 2010:
- The NHS has seen a real-terms cut in the amount of money given to it per patient.
- Between 2010 and 2015, mental health trusts lost the equivalent of £598m from their budgets each year.
- There are still around £4.5m of mental health spending cuts across five areas of England to come.
- 726 patients a month are being treated “out of area” from where they live.
- The number of people arriving in A&E with psychiatric issues has doubled since 2009.
More ‘false claims’
But this incident is not the first time FactCheck has caught Hunt out. On 1 August, it rebutted his claim, during an interview about mental health, that there were 6,000 more nurses since 2010. FactCheck called this “misleading”. And in April 2016, it challenged Hunt over his “threats” to “impose” the controversial junior doctors’ contract. FactCheck listed every occasion he had said “impose” or a variation thereof. And it noted:
Mr Hunt says this is not semantics, but when his careful use of language is explicitly laid out as above, it is hard to see it as anything else.
When Hunt is repeatedly proven to have made false statements about his party’s record on the NHS, it sends a worrying message to patients and medical professionals about his competency. To make a mistake once as a government minister is expected. To make several is concerning. And to make numerous ones is unacceptable.
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