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Former care minister slams May’s ‘puny response’ to CAMHS funding

The former care minister, Norman Lamb, has slammed prime minister Theresa May’s pledge to overhaul the nation’s mental health services, calling it a “puny response to a burning injustice” surrounding children and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS).

Yesterday in her annual Charity Commission lecture Theresa May announced new measures to improve mental healthcare across England including the offer of mental health first aid training to every secondary school, a review of CAMHS and an additional £1bn of funding.

However, Lamb, the Liberal Democrats’ health spokesperson, branded the announcement an attempt to “cover up” the government’s previous failure to guarantee NHS investment in CAMHS.

Much of the additional £1.4bn of funding secured for child mental health care is being diverted to prop up other services,” Lamb said. “This amounts to theft of money intended to improve the lives of vulnerable young people.”

“Sadly, mental health is often the first area which loses out when budgets are tight. Unless the government addresses the funding crisis facing the NHS and ensures extra investment gets through to where it's needed, we will not see the improvements in mental health care that are so badly needed.”

Research by the charity YoungMinds found that only half of England’s CCGs are increasing their CAMHS budget this year, despite all of them receiving a share of £1.4bn designated for that specific purpose by the former chancellor George Osborne.

In a House of Commons debate yesterday responding to May’s announcement, health secretary Jeremy Hunt said that the government was considering the introduction of an Ofsted-style rating table of CCGs where mental health provisions were inadequate.

Lamb questioned whether the system would work in the wake of the YoungMinds report, saying: “I note the secretary of state’s point about Ofsted-style ratings, but does he not need to introduce a system that guarantees that the money the government promised for children’s mental health is actually spent as intended?”

Hunt praised Lamb’s comments, saying that he was right to want to ensure that the government lives up to its “very important” promises, some of which were made when he was a minister.

“We are on track this year to spend around £1bn more, compared with two years ago when [Lamb] was minister for mental health. It has taken time for the NHS to get the message on mental health, but it is getting through loud and clear,” Hunt said.

Lamb has not been the only prominent health figure to raise CAMHS as a concern following May’s speech. Yesterday Dr Phil Moore, chair of NHS Clinical Commissioners’ Mental Health Commissioners Network, agreed that ‘heavy investment’ must be made into CAMHS due to its historical treatment as a ‘Cinderella service’.

Chris Ham, chief executive of the King’s Fund, also raised concerns about how May’s ambitions for mental health would be achieved when public health, early years provision and other social support services are seeing their budgets cut, agreeing that funding must reach the frontline.

(Image c. Peter Byrne, PA Images)

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Liz   10/01/2017 at 19:23

Took the words right out of my mouth, Norman. CAMHS should have been given more than the £1.4b anyway, and that money should have been ring-fenced. This money MUST be spent on our children; to do otherwise is foolishly short-sighted. However, I will believe it when I see it.

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