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Open letter to Claire Murdoch, National Mental Health Director, NHS England

Dear Ms Murdoch,

For decades mental health survivors have been asking for a move away from the dominance of a medical approach to treating mental distress, towards alternatives, and a social model. These medical treatments often have limited effectiveness, at worse they can be brutal, even resulting in deaths. Survivors also initiated a campaign against stigma and spoke up about abuse within the psychiatric system. You didn’t hear us then.

Instead of changing services to meet our needs, they continued to exist to serve vested interests. In recent years these approaches have escalated with virtually no regard for our needs and wishes. As the withdrawal of financial support to us by a government that ideologically opposes state provision of social security has also escalated, we are now living in what can only be described as Hell. We have been calling out loudly for help but it would seem you are still not listening.

On November 20th 2018, mental health patients from across the country will gather outside the ‘Keynote Seminar on Mental Health’ organized by the Westminster Health Forum at Over-Seas House in Park Place, St James’s Street, London SW1A 1LR. We will present you, as Chair of the Seminar, and all of the attendees, with a booklet of demands, named ‘We Demand’, calling for a change in the culture of mental health provision, with the focus on long-term user led support and a stop to the ‘work-outcome or be sanctioned’ approach which is set to drive benefits provision for mental health service users. We will demand an investigation into psychiatric abuse and neglect, and an immediate end to the ‘conscious cruelty’ which is the Work Capability Assessment.

Mental Health Resistance Network (MHRN), and many others, claim that care and financial support for those in mental distress for as long as it is needed should not be dependent on one’s ability to go to work, which for many service users is simply unfeasible and constitutes a dangerous level of pressure and coercion.

We will also demand a stop to the planned cuts to mental health services to the tune of 1 billion pounds by 2020 called for by Lord Carter of Coles*, and referred to in the information sent out to attendees by the organisers of the Seminar. The Seminar will discuss the planning of the next 5 years of mental health services in England, major charities like National MIND will be there to snatch their piece of the cake as mental health services are put out to tender and lucrative contracts for the next 5 years are up for grabs. As you know, we were not invited to speak.

A ‘senior parliamentarian’ has also been invited to endorse whatever the recommendations of the Seminar may be.

Organised by MHRN, a London-based, nationwide, grassroots mental health group, the protest will call together representatives of major unions such as Unite, and other mental health pressure groups, to demand an end to the profiteering approach to mental health services, which seeks to further slash service provision to those in the greatest need in order to transfer these services to the private sector for private profit.

We will also be demanding an end to the lie that mental distress can be cured by the simple act of trying hard enough. This is another way of saying, ‘pull yourself together’. It is ill informed, lazy, accusatory, cruel and counter-productive.

This action is important because it is time the government is held to account over the reckless and contemptuous manner in which it is treating mental health service users and disabled people, removing vital support services and holding the threat of cutting our benefits constantly over our heads, causing us great harm and driving some of us to suicide.

We are calling for an end to the ‘scrounger’ narrative which is peddled by the government in order to disengage the general public from the plans to further cut benefits and services, meting out yet more distress to mental health patients. We are being made into disposable units by this government, which has consistently striven to undermine our emotional and financial needs and rights. This drive continues at a frantic pace and the immediate future is extremely threatening and frightening for all mental health service users.

We expect a full reply to our demands from you within a reasonable time, two months seems fair, and to be invited to speak at all future events that are about us. We are united with the wider disability community in demanding “Nothing About Us Without Us”.

Yours sincerely,

Mental Health Resistance Network


MHRN Demands document:





Twitter: @MHResist



*Independent Report for the Department of Health 2016 called “Operational Productivity and Performance in English NHS Acute Hospitals: Warranted Variations.”



  1. Dominique Payne

    Superb letter which deserves a considered response that is helpful rather than punitive.

  2. Maria

    Simply don’t have any faith in NHSE ability to have ANY positive input and influence over the culture and practice in MH settings.Let alone speak out against their paymasters.

    To turn a blind eye to the violence culture the system has now become causes serious harm and deaths. To be the silent partner of a government that treats those with MH disability as sub human is almost unforgivable

    NHSE , for all the rhetoric, are puppets the government uses to legitimize. How on earth any of them can continue to talk about MH funding as if it exists beats the hell out of me. Would lay money that the austerity and abject cruelty that kills us has never touched them.
    Thank you for the letter and all the campaigning . Let’s see if there is an honest transparent response….

    • Thanks Maria,
      I’m sure you are right, NHSE are just puppets. This is the start of a campaign. We will be sending open letters and our demands to Ministers, Shadow Ministers and the media.
      If we get no reply we will go and see them in person.

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