Ministers with responsibility for mental health issues will be questioned at the final evidence session of the Environment Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee’s inquiry into rural mental health at 14.30 on Tuesday July 12, 2022, in The Grimond Room, Portcullis House, Westminster.
Senior health care practitioners will also be questioned at the session.
Ministers and their aides will be asked about some key issues that have arisen over the course of the inquiry and the Government’s plans to address them. This could include:
- how to ensure the NHS has an accurate picture of mental health needs in rural communities, including of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ (DEFRA’s) responsibilities in this area;
- how to overcome barriers to access such as ‘digital exclusion’ and transport difficulties;
- the need for a greater understanding of issues affecting the farming community, including the impact of ‘shock events’ such as animal disease outbreaks or flooding;
- problems related to funding when costs-per-head of services are higher in rural areas than urban ones; and
- how the government considers and manages the mental health impact of its own policies on rural communities, such as the introduction of new farming subsidies.
Dr Neil Hudson MP for Penrith and The Border and Member of the EFRA Committee, said :
"Our EFRA Inquiry is having its final evidence session this week where we can quiz Government on the key issues about rural mental health and the unique issues facing rural communities especially with regard to causes and problems with accessing services. We heard some of this first hand just last week in our EFRA Official visit to Taunton to hear more of the work of Farmerados, a charity supporting the mental health of the agricultural sector. This is an important inquiry and this final session will really help us as we then produce our report with recommendations to Government.”
The EFRA inquiry into rural mental health was launched because of the difficulties in accessing mental health care provision in rural and remote communities . Farming and other agriculture-related professions are known to face particular mental health challenges.
This is the fifth and final public evidence session of the inquiry. Panel 1 will hear evidence from national and local health care officials. Panel 2 will get the perspective of ministers and senior government officials. The witnesses will be:
Panel 1 (from 14.30)
- Claire Murdoch, National Director for Mental Health for NHS England
- Samantha Allen, Chief Executive of the North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care Board
Panel 2 (from about 15.30)
For the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC):
- Gillian Keegan MP, Minister of State for Care and Mental Health
- Zoe Seager PhD, Deputy Director for Mental Health Policy, Strategy and Delivery
For the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra):
- The Rt Hon Lord Benyon, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Minister for Rural Affairs, access to nature and Biosecurity
- Jonathan Baker, Deputy Director, Future Farming and Countryside Programme