Speech: Health Secretary Emergency Service Mental Health Symposium speech

Department Of Health

November 25
14:09 2021

Your Royal Highness, ladies and gentlemen Im honoured to be here at this hugely important event which shines a spotlight on a vital issue. I would like to pay tribute to you Sir, and to everyone else, for the commitment you have shown to this cause.

Our emergency services, they represent the best of us, running towards danger when most of us run away.

Im honoured to have had the privilege of working closely with three of our emergency services.

The ambulance service in my current role as Health Secretary and, also of course, the police and fire service when I served as Home Secretary.

Ive always found it humbling to see the extraordinary lengths that they go to keep us all safe.

And not only did I see this through my work at the Home Office and as Health Secretary, I saw it in my own home too.

As some of you will know, my younger brother Bas is a police officer, serving for the last 27 years.

One of the proudest moments of my life was going to his graduation as a senior police officer.

But its been hard to hear from my older brother about some of the experiences that he and his colleagues have endured whilst theyre doing their jobs trying to keep us all safe.

Of course, it certainly takes a physical toll and my brother has had all manner of bruises and cuts to show but we dont talk often enough about the mental toll.

Its a tough job even in normal times, but its been even tougher during the pandemic.

Dealing with the greater demand that a public health emergency brings while unable to do many of the things that would normally bring us joy, like seeing our loved ones.

MINDs illuminating report, the Blue Light Report, reveals just how stark this impact has been and how almost 7 in 10 emergency responders feel that their mental health has deteriorated as a result of the pandemic.

This is hugely concerning.

And were doing everything in our power to strengthen our support for those colleagues that are on the frontline.

Weve set up, for example, 40 mental health and wellbeing hubs for NHS staff, making sure that they have rapid access to mental health services and weve introduced helplines and a 24/7 text service exclusively for staff.

I also want to do more to recognise our emergency services, and the essential work that they do.

When I was Home Secretary, I launched something called the Police Covenant, a pledge to do more as a nation to recognise those who serve this country and a few weeks ago, I announced how I want to establish a NHS Covenant too so we can give even more support to those who work in our NHS.

Although the pandemic has been arduous for our nations health, its also, in some ways, been a time when weve seen some change for good with, I think, more people feeling able to talk openly about their mental health including of course, members of our Royal Family. Something we just saw now, on the panel.

These, of course, are very positive developments. And we must build on this momentum.

I was pleased to see that MINDs report showed that when compared to 2015 double the amount of emergency responders say they feel able to talk openly about their mental health issues or challenges at work and that the vast majority of people who did come forward for the support, they found it helpful.

Theres so much good work that is taking place already, right across our emergency services.

And todays event provides a valuable opportunity to learn from one another and from whats been successful in our different emergency services.

So Id like to thank all the charity partners whove been involved in todays Symposium and especially MIND for the work that they do to raise awareness of this vital issue.

Our emergency services have been there for us all throughout this crisis.

And as we recover, I, and the government, are determined to be there for them too and to put mental and physical health on an equal footing at last.

Thank you all very much.

Published 25 November 2021

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