By ignoring mental health the Tories have left our brave NHS staff out in the cold – Dr Rosena Allin-Khan

The days grow shorter and colder, and somehow it’s over six months since we started…

The days grow shorter and colder, and somehow it’s over six months since we started ­living with Covid-19.

Our lives have been drastically altered by this virus and, sadly, the UK’s record has been shocking.

We have the highest level of excess deaths in Europe, the deepest recession in the G7 and, tragically, one of the highest rates of health worker deaths.

Mental health is no different – and as we marked World Mental Health Day yesterday, it was clearly time to take stock.

Our frontline NHS and care staff have been left out in the cold by this Government and without action this winter it’s going to get colder.

The reality on the frontline was that health and care staff were working in situations they had never trained for.

World Mental Health Day is the perfect opportunity to discuss these issues – but they are a year-round concern

Many were redeployed, proud to play their part in the national fight against this virus. Soon, however, they were seeing their colleagues, friends and loved ones falling ill.

They were having to call home before walking through the front door to make sure their kids wouldn’t hug them.

And throughout the night, unable to sleep, they were messaging each other, hoping for support.

In May alone, over 500,000 sick days were taken by NHS staff owing to mental ill-health, an increase of a third from May 2019.

There’s a hidden crisis taking place and the knock-on effect on the NHS is damaging. Not just our frontline staff are affected though.

Figures show 10 million are expected to seek help for mental ill-health due to Covid-19. This includes frontline workers, people losing their jobs and our children who have had their school life turned upside down.

This Government likes to pretend that this was “unavoidable” but the extent of this crisis was anything but.

The past decade of cuts to the NHS and other public services has set the UK up for one of the worst responses to this disaster globally.

The sheer numbers who will need to access mental health services in the coming months should be a huge wake-up call for the Government.

Instead, they refuse to act. In the first three months of lockdown, the Health Secretary didn’t meet a single mental health ­organisation or Trust.

In Parliament this week, Mental health minister Nadine Dorries told me she “just does not recognise” the issues facing the mental health of our youngsters.

Mental Health Minister Nadine Dorries admits she is shocked by youngsters’ mental health problems

Across Europe, countries have had a very different outlook and have tried to address the very things placing a huge strain on people’s mental health in the UK.

From regularly surveying the country’s mood, to freephone numbers for mental health support and videos encouraging people to take part in activities to help day to day life, other countries are putting mental health at the heart of Covid-19 responses.

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Ministers have tried to claim they’ve been too busy with the virus for mental health. But this separation from physical health is dangerous. A quarter of all health need is related, so it’s alarming the Government does not recognise its importance during a health crisis.

We have a long road ahead, but we don’t have to be left behind.

The Government still has time to put mental health at the heart of their response and give it the resources it needs in future, beyond this crisis.

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