Dr Andrew Molodynski is the mental health lead for the British Medical Association and has worked as a consultant psychiatrist in Didcot since 2006.

During my 23 years in psychiatry our understanding of mental health has improved considerably.

There have been fundamental changes in the ways that doctors diagnose and care for patients.

And yet, despite these significant strides forward, time and time again vulnerable patients are being let down by a system that, after decades of underfunding, is no longer fit for purpose.

Mental health services have seen demand surge in recent years, but we have seen no comparable increase in funding or staffing levels.

While our patient numbers swell, the number of doctors and nurses has largely remained the same.

Services are struggling to cope, and it is the vulnerable who are unforgivably left to suffer.

Earlier this month a group of MPs revealed in a sobering report how young people with learning disabilities and autism are having their human rights breached by the ‘horrific’ and ‘brutal’ conditions of some mental health hospitals across the country.

Patients who should be receiving treatment to get better are being detained through a care pathway that ultimately inflicts ‘terrible suffering’.

Sadly, the parliamentary Human Rights Committee came as no surprise at all to those of us working in mental health services.

Its account of young people being moved around and held under the mental health act in very restricted conditions is something we have become increasingly accustomed to over the years.

In 2011, undercover filming at Winterbourne view, a private ‘hospital’ near Bristol for people with learning disabilities, revealed sickening verbal and physical abuse of patients.

Several staff were convicted of criminal offences. The ‘hospital’ was closed.

More locally we heard about the tragic death of Connor Sparrowhawk in 2013. The teenager drowned after being left alone in the bath tub while an inpatient at an NHS learning disability unit in Oxford.

The investigation that followed into the NHS provider (Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust) was also highly critical and called for fundamental changes. That unit was closed.

Fast forward to 2019: more secretly recorded footage revealed systematised abuse and intimidation of patients with learning disabilities, this time in Whorlton Hall Hospital in the North East.

And now the Human Rights Committee reports more of the same.

The breaches of trust detailed in the report are not ‘minor’ (if such things can indeed be minor).

We are talking about patients across the country being sworn at, assaulted, locked up for prolonged periods, and even having limbs broken.

Thankfully, most people in this vulnerable group do get compassionate and good quality care, but in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, one that prides itself on its social care and its rule of law, it is an unacceptable stain that many have experiences such as those described above.

In all of these instances there were major failings across the system, from staff, to management to the authorities tasked with making sure things like this don’t happen.

However, the thread running through all of this, and over many years, is that we have not seen fit to spend enough money to look after and treat people with mental health problems in the same way we do for people with physical health problems.

Things have to change.

Mental health care accounts for about 25 per cent of health activity, but only about 13 per cent of funding.

In Oxfordshire, we fall even shorter with funding at about eight to nine per cent.

With such unacceptable discrepancies it can be no surprise that, despite generally wonderful and caring staff doing their best, care is not what it should be.

At the beginning of this year Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group recognised that local mental health services were underfunded compared to other areas in England and promised to set that right – we have yet to see this in front line services - however when it comes, it will still leave mental health care far behind physical care.

Earlier this year the British Medical Association made strong calls for the Government to align mental health resources with physical health at a quarter of the NHS budget, and the authorities, both locally and nationally, must commit to this.

We know what works, we just don’t have the resources to do it, and in this day and age that is shameful.

It is time for real parity- so those living with mental health problems and their families can get the help and support they need when they need it.