Newcastle MP backs call to revolutionise Parkinson’s care

Newcastle North MP, Catherine McKinnell, is marking this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week (14th-20th May), by pledging to help overhaul local care for Parkinson’s after a report reveals a shocking lack of mental health support for the condition – despite anxiety and depression being amongst its most common symptoms.

Attending the recent launch of a report Mental Health Matters Too in Parliament, Catherine expressed her concern that nearly half of all people with Parkinson’s experience mental health symptoms, such as anxiety and depression yet only a quarter of those affected receive any treatment for it.

Parkinson’s is a degenerative neurological condition, for which there is currently no cure. The main symptoms of the condition are tremor, slowness of movement and rigidity – and it affects 145,000 people in the UK, or around one in 350 of the adult population. Every hour, two people in the UK are told they have Parkinson’s.

Compared with the general population, people diagnosed with Parkinson’s are more than twice as likely to experience depression and anxiety, which is triggered by changes in the brain caused by the condition. However, the results of a year-long inquiry reveal the psychological aspects of Parkinson’s are being ignored by the health system, and many with the condition are waiting months, or even years, to get the mental health support they need.

The research was conducted by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Parkinson’s, and Catherine is now supporting its calls to overhaul the NHS and deliver a more ‘joined up’ approach to care for all aspects of the condition.

Catherine said:

‘This report is both timely and extremely important, highlighting deeply concerning findings that need to be addressed.

‘I know from my work with Parkinson’s UK in Newcastle that many people struggle to have the physical side of their condition properly treated, whilst they are in hospital for example – so for this to be compounded with a lack of support for the psychological symptoms is even worse.

‘I will be asking health service providers in Newcastle how they will ensure local people get effective treatment, at the right time, for both the physical and psychological aspects of Parkinson’s.’

Research for the report, provided by charity Parkinson’s UK, shows that the hidden psychological symptoms of Parkinson’s are one of the biggest challenges faced by many people with the condition. Of those who experience psychological symptoms:

  • 72% say their mental health has affected their ability to socialize
  • Half (50%) find it harder to leave the house
  • More than a quarter (27%) have felt suicidal

Additionally, anxiety and depression are a particular concern for people with Parkinson’s as they have been shown to worsen other symptoms, such as tremor or ‘freezing’.

Baroness Gale, who is Co-Chair of the APPG on Parkinson’s, said:

‘My father lived with Parkinson’s, so I know first-hand the impact that this incurable neurological condition can have on all areas of a person’s life – and the wide array of support needed.

‘Although it’s clear the vast majority of people with Parkinson’s receive treatment to manage their easily-recognisable physical symptoms, such as tremor and rigidity, hardly any have access to the support they need for mental health symptoms until it’s too late.

‘We hope that this report will be the catalyst needed to raise awareness of this hidden aspect of the condition and prompt much-needed changes to the NHS’s approach to mental health for people with Parkinson’s.’

For more information on key findings and recommendations from the inquiry, Mental Health Matters Too can be accessed via the Parkinson’s UK website on www.parkinsons.org.uk/mentalhealthmatters

For advice, information and support call the charity’s free, confidential helpline on 0808 800 0303.