Mental Health in England: Jeremy Hunt vs Ralf Little

In July the top judge of the Family Court condemned the “disgraceful” and “utterly shaming lack of proper provision in this country” for a girl who needed mental health treatment.

In October the Health Secretary said on TV “he was right to say that”.

It’s not controversial to say that many people are not getting the mental health treatment they need in England.

Yet the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt still said on TV: “What has actually happened on my watch is the biggest expansion of mental health provision in Europe” when challenged on everything from lack of nurses to lack of beds by Andrew Marr.

Mr Hunt can’t have known whether that was true or not. Neither the Department of Health nor NHS England publish records of how much has been spent on mental health in the past. We still don’t actually know how much is being spent in total on mental health in the NHS right now.

What we do know is that the government is more than a year into a five year plan to try to tackle the problems. That plan commits to spending a billion pounds more on mental health by 2020/21.

After Mr Hunt’s TV appearance, the actor Ralf Little called him a liar on Twitter. Mr Little later clarified that he thought Mr Hunt might have got his facts wrong unwittingly.

Ralf Little and Jeremy Hunt swapped dozens of tweets, figures, and examples to back their claims. They clashed on the facts about spending, staff numbers, and crisis care.

So who’s right? Both sides invited factcheckers to the party, so here we are. At Full Fact, it’s not our job to decide whether someone’s lying. But it is our job to get the facts for you.

Weeks of research, press office pass-the-parcel and talking to experts later, here’s what we know.

It comes with a health warning: there’s a lot that isn’t known about mental health, and the Department of Health and NHS England haven’t always answered our questions, so if we get better information, we’ll share it.

See more of the conclusions from Full Fact