The Liberal Democrats have called for the improved access to psychological therapy programme to be extended beyond 2014 and to be included in the NHS Outcomes Framework.

Debating mental health policy yesterday at its annual conference in Brighton, the party voted in favour of a motion which described the under-treatment of people with mental illness as “the most glaring case of health inequality in our country”.

The motion called on the government to ensure the improved access to psychology therapy programme, which aims to support the NHS to implement National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence guidelines on mental illness, is implemented on the ground.

It also called for the inclusion of IAPT targets in the NHS Outcomes Framework, for the programme’s continuation beyond 2014.

The scheme should become a “priority project” for the NHS Commissioning Board, while all GPs should have placements in IAPT or child and adolescent mental health services during training.

Speaking in support of the motion, care services minister Norman Lamb said mental health had been seen as a “poor relation”, and that this must change.

He questioned why the previous Labour government had not included mental health in either the 18 week referral to treatment waiting times target, or in the “concept of choice and empowerment for patients”.

“Why is it that the scandal of so many people being locked up in our prisons with mental health problems is still there? This is unacceptable in a civilised society.”

Mr Lamb described the principle of “parity of esteem” between mental and physical health, which is set out in the draft mandate to the NHS Commissioning Board, as a “breakthrough”. “our task now is to make that a reality… it cannot just be rhetoric.

“For so long as I am in this job I will do everything I can to champion this cause.”