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29.04.16

Lords ‘perplexed’ by removal of incentives for mental health treatment

Mental health care will no longer be a quality premium measure for CCGs in 2016-17, prompting peers to accuse the government of failing to live up to its commitment to improve mental health services.

The quality premium scheme offers financial incentives of up to £5 a head, or £217m in total, to CCGs for improving the quality of services they commission, access to care and patient health outcomes and reducing health inequalities.

This year’s national measures for performance improvements are cancer, the GP patient survey, e-referrals and improving antibiotic prescribing. However, mental health was a national measure and improving access to psychological therapies was a measure the year before that.

Baroness Tyler said yesterday: “I confess that I am left genuinely perplexed by the decision to drop the national level financial incentive for commissioners locally to improve mental healthcare. How does that downgrading of mental health in the quality premium scheme square with the government’s oft-repeated commitment to ensure equality between physical and mental health?”

Lord Prior, under-secretary to the Department of Health, said that CCGs still had the option to choose three local indicators, worth 30% of the quality premium scheme, from a list of 80, including 17 mental health indicators.

However, he admitted that NHS England has not carried out an assessment of the impact of removing the premiums on the quality of mental healthcare.

Lord Prior insisted that mental health was “an absolute priority” for the government, pointing out their commitment to new funding for mental healthcare.

Labour Peer Lord Hunt raised concerns about a recent National Audit Office report saying that the government may struggle to deliver its goal of parity between mental and physical health and said: “Leaving mental health out of the national priorities sends a signal to the NHS that, despite what ministers say, in the end it is not important.”

In another debate yesterday in the House of Commons David Lammy, MP for Tottenham, said that the “much-trumpeted concept of parity of esteem” was not a reality because of cuts to mental health services, which mean that 3,000 beds across the country have been lost in the past six years, and that “institutional bias” against mental health remained.

St Ann’s hospital in Tottenham has lost a third of its beds in the past eight years and Barnet, Enfield and Haringey Mental Health NHS Trust has a £12.9m deficit.

He said that mental health makes up 23% of England’s burden of disease but receives only 11% of NHS funding, although cardiovascular disease makes up a smaller amount but receives 16.2%.

(Top image c. Dominic Lipinski from PA Wire)

 

 

 

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