Mental health conditions are on the rise with the World Health Organisation forecasting that by 2020 mental health will be the single biggest health cost. Despite this there is a forecasted cut in spend of £4.5m in 5 English districts alone. Cuts will equate to up to 3.6% of current spend.
In February 2016 NHS England stated that there was a need for an additional spend on mental health of £1bn, with Clinical Commissioning Groups also being required to increase their mental health spend in line with budget increases.
In response Prof Simon Brake, chief officer for NHS Walsall CCG who face the biggest cuts, said: “Walsall CCG benchmarks nationally as high-spending, falling within the upper quartile as an outlier.
He said it had “invested significantly more in previous years in mental health than CCG peers ahead of the national requirements to make investments and there was a “lower than average funding growth of only 1.4% compared to the national average of 2.14%”.
Other CCGs stated that the falling spend did not take into account work in other areas for mental health and tried to place assurance that the targets of quality of care by 2018/19 would be met.
Whilst it is true quality of care may not always follow a direct correlation to size of spend, it is concerning that at a time that pledges of increased spend are being made, as political parties and governments pay lip service to greater emphasis the budgets still get slashed. Waiting lists and quality of care are already at breaking point (some would argue far beyond breaking point) due to lack of funds. Yet despite this 40% of mental health trusts have seen a reduction in budget with none of the extra £8bn NHS funding of recent years finding its way to this critical topic.
We aim to steer clear of political comment on this site, however it will be interesting to see what pledges and policies around mental health make it into the various party manifestos in the coming weeks. Though with promises being consistently broken on this topic for some time, how trustworthy will these manifestos really be?