Government pledges to improve mental health funding are being broken because the NHS is not passing the money on to the NHS trusts that treat patients.
In 2012, NHS England agreed to give physical and mental health equal priority, termed ‘parity of esteem’. Currently, mental problems account for 28% of the total burden of disease, although this area receives just 13% of the NHS budget.
A new report has revealed that since 2012 only 55% of mental health trusts have reported budgetary increases. Furthermore, only 25% said they expected NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) to increase the value of their contracts for 2016–17, even though the 209 CCGs have seen an average 3.4% rise in their budgets this year.
This latest research found widespread confusion among commissioners and providers of mental health care as to what services are covered by the funding.
Furthermore, 90% of trusts and 60% of CCGs did not think the extra £1bn for mental health by 2020–21 recommended by NHS England’s recent taskforce would be enough, especially given planned improvements such as more prevention, better 7-day access to care for those experiencing a mental health crisis and expanded access to ‘talking therapies’.
Campaigners on this issue have warned that care for those who need psychological therapy will suffer unless the promised funding reaches the frontline.
Saffron Cordery, Director of Policy at NHS Providers, which represents hospital trusts, said: ‘Without this [sufficient funding], it is impossible to provide high-quality care and support for some of the most vulnerable people in our society.’
Meanwhile, Alistair Burt, the Community and Social Care Minister at the Department of Health, told parliament recently that ‘the government was still committed to achieving parity of esteem between mental and physical health.’