A health minister has rebuffed calls for cross-party talks on a mental health package for NHS staff, telling Labour the only way they would sway policy was to “win an election”.
Nadine Dorries, the minister for mental health, said the government had launched a range of initiatives to help people with mental health conditions cope during the second lockdown, including a “winter plan” for mental wellbeing and health.
But when asked in the Commons if she would meet with Labour to discuss a cross-party strategy, Dorries at first denied she was the minister responsible for that portfolio.
Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, Labour’s mental health spokesperson, had to remind the minister that she was. She said: “It is for the package for mental health care for our frontline NHS and care workers which I’m sorry you’ve seemed to have forgotten even though I’ve mentioned it a number of times.”
She continued: “We can stand at our doorsteps and clap but why can’t we give them the support they truly deserve? Will the minister agree to meet to discuss our Care for Carers proposal?”.
She added: “It may feel impossible to hope, on the edge of a precipice as we are, but the kindness that is on display across the UK should bring hope to us.
“We continue to extend our offer to work together across this crisis for all our communities. We just need the political will from the government.”
Taking to the despatch box, Dorries blurted: “One of the joys of being a minister of the government is that we actually won an election and therefore that gives us the right to decide policy and the ability to decide policy.
“I can honestly say if the honourable lady wishes to decide the policy then the party opposite should do harder at the next election. Try harder!”
The minister said the government was “absolutely committed” to funding an expansion of mental health services in England and that it had already put aside 2.3 billion of additional funding.
“We are doing our utmost to make mental health services are there for anyone who needs them during this pandemic,” Dorries iterated.
The minister said she would consider Allin-Khan’s request.
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth tweeted: “Petty, ungracious and partisan from Nadine Dorries. I’ve never known a minister refuse an offer from a shadow minister to meet & work on a cross-party basis. We’re in biggest public health crises for 100 years. NHS staff under intense pressure deserve decent mental health care.”
Petty, ungracious & partisan from Nadine Dorries.
I’ve never known a minister refuse an offer from a shadow minister to meet & work on a cross party basis.
We’re in biggest public health crises for 100 years. NHS staff under intense pressure deserve decent mental health care. https://t.co/OP2mD6GLJd
— Jonathan Ashworth 😷 (@JonAshworth) November 3, 2020
Labour MP Jess Phillips wrote: “This is a shocking way to govern as if all the people we represent have no stake in how things should be. Refusing to work together to help front line NHS and social care staff is appalling but expected. They just don’t give a toss, I bet Dido Harding could get a meeting.”
@Emmself added: “This is absolutely beyond appalling from Nadine Dorries Can she not put politics aside and look at the mental well-being of NHS & Care workers? She should resign her post if she thinks clapping is helpful to suicidal frontline workers.”
LBC presenter Natasha Devon said: “This video actually made me feel a bit sick. @DrRosena trying to arrange a cross-party consultation to discuss the best way to support the #mentalhealth of NHS workers & Nadine Dorries (Minister for Mental Health) playing to the gallery for cheap laughs.”
Paul Hebden added: “People expect to see politicians working together on basic issues like health.”
@Yorkshirelover1 added: “It beggars belief. A real live DOCTOR offers to work with the thick as a brick @nadinedorriesmp and gets told to try harder at the next election.”