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More than half of local NHS bodies 'plan to spend less on mental health'

Published 21/09/2016

The Government has vowed 'parity of esteem' for mental health services in England (picture posed by model)
The Government has vowed 'parity of esteem' for mental health services in England (picture posed by model)

More than half of local NHS bodies are cutting spending on mental health, figures obtained by Labour show.

New data obtained by Freedom of Information requests to Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) in England show that 57% have reduced the amount they will spend on mental health during 2016/17 compared to 2015/16.

Of the 128 CCGs that responded to the requests, 73 said they planned to reduce the proportion of their budget they will spend on mental health this year, according to the figures obtained by Labour's former shadow mental health secretary Luciana Berger.

The figures also show a stark difference between the proportion of funds spent on mental health in each region, ranging from just 5% in West Hampshire to 16% in Haringey in London.

Charity Rethink Mental Illness said patients were facing a postcode lottery of care, with s ome being forced to to travel hundreds of miles to get the right support.

Ms Berger, who is president of the Labour Campaign for Mental Health, said: "Time and time again ministers have promised that mental health spending would increase.

"Yet for the third year in a row this has not happened, with a majority of local areas planning to spend less of their budget on mental health.

"The result is services stretched to breaking point, patients at risk, and proper standards of care being undermined.

"There are bed shortages, massive waiting lists and cuts to early intervention and community services.

"For all their warm words about parity of esteem, it is clear that ministers are not committed to achieving equality between physical health and mental health.

"The Government must urgently step in and prevent a dangerous situation developing."

Commenting on the figures, Samantha Nicklin, head of campaigns at Rethink Mental Illness, said: "There is clearly a mismatch between where money is supposed to be spent on mental illness and where it is actually being spent.

"Ultimately, this means that people with mental illness are facing a postcode lottery for services and patchy care across the country.

"Sometimes this can mean having to travel hundreds of miles, away from family and friends, just to access the right support."

Yesterday the influential Public Accounts Committee (PAC) warned that t he Government's drive to achieve "parity of esteem" between mental and physical health services in England would be "very difficult to achieve" given the financial constraints on the health service.

MPs on the committee said the aim was a "laudable ambition" but pressure on the NHS budget had made them " sceptical about whether this is affordable".

"The Department of Health and NHS England have a laudable ambition to improve mental health services but, given the current pressures on the NHS budget, we are sceptical about whether this is affordable, or achievable without compromising other services," the PAC report said.

Claire Murdoch, National Mental Health Director, NHS England said: "The NHS has laid out very clear plans to help more than a million extra people and invest more than an additional £1bn by 2020/21.

"In the implementation plan published recently we set out how we would expand staff and services for a range of mental health issues to improve care for everyone.

"Our plans are fully costed and soon, as part of NHS England's commitment to transparency, we will break new ground publishing data on spending locally and patient outcomes using a new dashboard.

"This will support local discussion about spending, need and priority and we will work closely to support those CCGs struggling to invest appropriately or deliver on significant targets in mental health care."

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