Following Dean Russell's question to the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock announced more support for mental health including the launch of a Mental Health White Paper with legislation to follow for a new Mental Health Act in this Parliament.
MPs also focused on the rise in the number of positive cases, new coronavirus variants and the introduction of the latest restrictions announced by the Prime Minister.
Health & Social Care Committee - Evidence session with the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock - Full clip of Dean's questions below:
Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Department of Health and Social Care
Clara Swinson, Director General, Global and Public Health, Department for Health and Social Care
Dean Russell Q1: I would like to ask about some of the long-term impacts. One of the long-term impacts that I am aware of, from speaking to everyone, from schools through to people in the community, and from emails, is the impact on mental health. Could you please outline what measures are being undertaken right now to help support the mental health of the nation?
Matt Hancock: Yes, this is incredibly important. I am acutely aware of the mental health impacts of bringing in a lockdown, to Dr Evans’s question earlier and indeed the Chair’s at the start. We are putting in place more support for mental health services this year than last, and there will be more to come. I was very glad that, at the spending review, the Chancellor announced more support for mental health services. In addition, we have to make sure over the medium term that we update our laws on mental health. I can tell you that next week we will be bringing forward the mental health White Paper following Sir Simon Wessely’s report, which he published just over a year ago. We are taking on board the vast majority of his proposals and, indeed, adding some further ones. I then hope to be able to legislate a new mental health Act in this Parliament, to replace the 1980s Act, which is now very much out of date. I hope this is a highly consensual process and very much an open book approach. I am sure the Select Committee will have an important role in making sure we get the details right. I am very grateful to the whole team and all the stakeholders we have been working with that we have been able to get to the point where we will be launching that next week.
Dean Russell Q2: Could I ask a bit about the long term? Professor Whitty talked about the vaccine as not one that you take once and that is it forever. We have talked about measures for next year. This time next year, where do you think the country will be? Will we be having a national vaccine roll-out programme? Will we still be testing? Have the economic measures been looked into as well?
Matt Hancock: There is absolutely no doubt that vaccines and testing will still be a feature next year. We will need both the surveillance testing, to be able to understand where the virus is, and we will need testing for people who have symptoms, in the same way that you get tested for all sorts of other things. In fact, I want to have more testing. I have talked to the Select Committee before about the dictum “If in doubt, get a test.” It should apply across the board. It should apply to flu and other illnesses as well as to Covid-19 and other coronaviruses. On the vaccine, I anticipate that we will probably need to revaccinate because we do not know the longevity of the protection from these vaccines. We do not know how frequent it will need to be. It might need to be every six months or every year. With the flu jab we vaccinate every year, and we update it according to any mutations that have taken place. We do that over the autumn because, although you can catch flu in the summer, it is highly unlikely. It is because of lower ventilation and much more time spent indoors that flu transmits more easily during the autumn. I anticipate Covid and flu vaccinations long into the future.
Dean Russell Q3: Looking ahead, to get a bit of relief on mental health and light at the end of the tunnel, do you foresee this being the last of the lockdowns now that the vaccinations are being rolled out?
Matt Hancock: I do, yes.