This week it has emerged that spending on mental health care in England over the next year is set to decrease, despite pledges from the government to increase the budget and resources spent on mental health care – to put it on a par with physical health as a part of the NHS five-year forward plan.
The accusations have stemmed from a freedom of information request to NHS Commissioning bodies from the Labour party. It has been suggested that on average budgets for mental health fell in the period 2015-16, contrary to guidance published by NHS England in December 2014, claiming that funding in 2015-16 should increase “by at least as much” as the increase in overall allocation.
It has been suggested by the chairman of the NHS Clinical Commissioners Mental Health Network Dr Phil Moore, that whilst CCGs understand the importance of mental health care the financial pressures they face often leave no room for increased spending in any one area. They have been looking elsewhere for funding – such as the use of the voluntary sector and establishing more community schemes.
Figures collected by Labour indicate that out of the 130 CCG respondents, 50 plan to reduce their mental health budget for this financial year. Figures are suggesting that CCGs are planning to allocate 10% of their total budgets on mental health – 1% down when compared with the 2014/15 financial year.
The figures also showed a geographical divide, an example being North, Eastern and Western Devon CCG allocating just 6% of its budget to mental health, compared with 20% from Lincolnshire West CCG. This statistic that may be of concern to members of the public.
The information was dismissed by NHS England who claims that CCGs would be spending 13% of their allocated budgets on mental health this year, sparking this comment from a Department of Health spokesperson:
“We do not recognise these figures – NHS England has shown mental health spending has increased by £0.4bn this year.
Mental health is a priority for this government and to say otherwise ignores the fact we have increased central funding by millions of pounds, and introduced the first ever treatment targets which will make sure funding goes where it’s needed.”
The announcement has disappointed the Mental Health Network claims chief executive Stephen Dalton:
“On the frontline, whilst some mental health services have seen modest investment, most report that they are at a standstill and others have seen a reduction in spending.”
It has been widely publicised that demand for mental health services is growing at an unprecedented pace with mental illness now accounting for more than one fifth of reported illnesses. One argument suggests that now more than ever the emphasis needs to be on mental health care but is this at the detriment of other public health services?
With funding scarce Trusts across the whole healthcare sector need to identify new cost efficiencies to improve the quality of care.