MPs and Lords discuss mental health and Parkinson's

On 19 April, the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Parkinson’s and the APPG on Diabetes held a joint meeting to discuss the role of mental health symptoms and treatment in these two long-term conditions and how care can be improved in England.

There are over 40 symptoms of Parkinson’s. While the movement symptoms are better understood, fewer people are familiar with the mental health and cognitive symptoms of Parkinson’s, which can include depression, anxiety, delusions, hallucinations and dementia. At any one time, 40% of people with Parkinson’s experience significant symptoms of depression and 31% experience anxiety.

The parliamentary groups for Parkinson’s and diabetes held a joint meeting to highlight that people with long-term conditions are twice as likely to experience mental health issues and how current services in England don’t adequately meet their needs. 

The meeting agreed that the UK Government must: 

  • address core priorities to improve mental health care for people with Parkinson’s, diabetes and other long-term conditions
  • ensure joined up, holistic patient care, reduce unplanned hospital stays and help people to feel their mental health symptoms are prioritised as much as their physical ones
  • recruit, train and retain the right mental health and other Parkinson’s care staff to provide the right support across the country so that everyone has access to the right support, regardless of where they live.

Parkinson’s UK and Diabetes UK, who coordinate the APPGs, are also calling for better data collection to understand the gaps in services across the country to build a clear picture of how many people with diabetes and Parkinson’s are accessing psychological support as part of their long-term condition care. 

Dr Jennifer Foley, Specialist Neuropsychologist at a London hospital, attended the meeting. She spoke about the fact that people with Parkinson’s often face longer and unplanned hospital stays because of mental health symptoms. She also advocated for better integrated care to address this.

The Parkinson’s perspective on mental health 

The meeting heard contributions both from clinical experts in Parkinson’s and diabetes, and from members of the Parkinson’s and diabetes communities who live with mental health symptoms. 

Liz Barnes lives with Parkinson’s. She spoke about how NHS staff weren't equipped to support her mental health symptoms and provide Parkinson’s care:

“I have no Parkinson’s nurse and therefore no one to access for advice around medication, emotional support and general advice. This is because of where I live and where my consultant works. I would like everyone with Parkinson’s to receive the support they require, preferably by way of a Parkinson’s nurse.” 

Mary Glindon, MP for North Tyneside and chair of the APPG on Parkinson’s, said: 

“The speeches from the healthcare professionals and those with lived experience of Parkinson’s and diabetes served as a reminder that since the Parkinson's APPG published its 2018 report, on anxiety and depression in people with long-term conditions, little has changed.  

“Whether it's a need for more integrated services or staff shortages, the Government must do more to improve and motor the vital services needed to help those with long-term conditions have better mental health as well as physical health solutions.”

What happens now?

The APPGs will send a joint letter to the minister for mental health, urging her to take action on each of the priority areas discussed in the meeting. 

All MPs and Lords who attended the meeting will receive a briefing and some actions they can take in Parliament to advocate for people with Parkinson’s and diabetes to receive high-quality, integrated mental health care. 

We’re also campaigning to end the postcode lottery of NHS care for people with Parkinson’s, as experienced by Liz, with our Can’t Wait campaign. Find out more and support our Can’t Wait campaign here.