CREDIT: This story was first seen in OnMedica
Half of clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) are missing a key mental health funding commitment, Labour’s Luciana Berger has warned as she called on health secretary Jeremy Hunt to introduce urgently a ring-fence around mental health budgets – with the apparent support of commissioners.
Through a series of Freedom of Information (FOI) requests, the MP for Liverpool Wavertree – who is also a member of the Health Select Committee – obtained data that show that, for the second consecutive year, half of CCGs plan to reduce the proportion of their budget they spend on mental health for this financial year (2017/18). The data Luciana Berger obtained, seen by OnMedica, reveal that:
- In 2014/15, 67% of CCGs did not intend to increase their proportion of spend on mental health. For 2015/16 it was 38%; and in 2016/17 it was 57%.
- Of the 129 CCGs (62%) that responded to the FOI request, 64 (50%) plan to reduce the proportion of their budget they will spend on mental health.
- The postcode lottery in mental health funding still persists: the amount CCGs plan to spend on mental health services varied between South Cheshire, which will spend just five per cent of its budget on mental health services, to Lewisham, which plans to allocate 16% of its total budget to mental health.
Ms Berger said: “The findings reveal that over four years the government has failed to deliver its promise for mental health services.” She demanded: “Enough empty promises. At the very least Jeremy Hunt must urgently introduce a ringfence around mental health budgets.”
NHS Clinical Commissioners appear to agree. Dr Phil Moore, chair of NHSCC Mental Health Commissioners Network and deputy clinical chair of NHS Kingston CCG, said: “We wholly agree that it is crucial that money committed for mental health is spent only for this purpose. As clinical commissioners, we are frontline clinicians who know only too well the impact that poor mental health can have on people.”
The BMA said it was “frustrating” that CCGs plan to reduce the proportion they spend on vital mental health services. Its consultants committee deputy chair, consultant psychiatrist Dr Gary Wannan, said: “It’s very easy to promise investment but it only matters to patients if the money translates into the best care possible, fairly and evenly provided across the country.
“Without increased spending, mental health services are struggling. If patients are fortunate enough to live in an area which has invested in specialised services, the standard of care and support they receive can be pioneering. Meanwhile another patient somewhere else in England may have no choice but to be treated in a bed hundreds of miles away from friends and family.
“The BMA wants to see real parity of esteem between mental health and physical health services so people with mental health problems receive timely care in the right setting and enjoy the best quality of life.”