Funding failing to reach mental health services, despite parity promises

Government promises of parity of esteem between mental and physical health services seem as hard to achieve as ever, NHS Providers has warned.

In a survey of CCGs and mental health trusts conducted with the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA), NHS Providers found that only 52% had received a real-terms increase in their mental health funding in 2015-16 and only 25% expected to receive an increase next year.

Most damningly, over 90% of providers and 60% of commissioners said that they were not confident the £1bn funding for mental health provided by the government will be enough to meet demands on the service.

Saffron Cordery, director of policy at NHS Providers, and a member of NHE’s editorial board, said: “Mental health services in this country have suffered from decades of underinvestment, with people experiencing mental health problems often getting worse care than those with physical problems.

“Despite pledges from the government to address this, our survey shows that promised funding simply isn’t getting through to local mental health services.”

The report found that it was unclear how equality between physical and mental health is to be achieved, with commissioners and providers expressing confusion over which services would be covered and how funding would be achieved.

It is also not clear whether the £1bn commitment is a real or cash terms increase and is made on a recurrent or non-recurrent basis.

The struggle to improve mental health services comes at a time of unprecedented financial pressures for the NHS, which has affected mental health services, with half of foundations and trusts in deficit.

Dr Phil Moore, chair of the NHS Clinical Commissioners’ mental health commissioners network and deputy chair of NHS Kingston CCG, said: “Clinical commissioners are serious and ambitious about improving mental health services and achieving parity of esteem for patients, carers and local populations.

“Mental health trusts provide invaluable and critical services but it must be recognised that mental health service provision is wider than trusts – to get the best possible outcomes for their population.”

He said that the shortage in funding could be because CCGs were also developing contracts with private-sector and voluntary partners to provide more community mental health care.

NHS Providers and the HMFA recommended new clarification from the government over what areas are covered by parity of esteem and how it will be funded.

They also said that better enforcement and support for local organisations and more overall transparency about mental health funding were needed.

Rebecca Cotton, director of mental health policy at the Mental Health Network, said:  “We urgently need resources for mental health services to reach the people who need it most. We must have greater transparency, both to explain delays in funding and to ensure vital money isn’t being diverted into other priority areas. The government have committed to achieving parity of esteem for mental health services and we now need the rhetoric to be realised. 

“This report shows an urgent need for better data on how and where mental health funding is being allocated for the benefit of people with mental health problems.”

Paul Briddock, director of policy at the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA), added that to improve the disparity between mental and physical health provision, providers and commissioners need to work collaboratively and towards to same goal.

“The report shows that we are not quite where we would like to be and there are still challenges ahead in order to get this right. It is important that commissioners are open and transparent about where the extra funding is being distributed, what it is being spent on and the impact it is intended to have,” he said. “We feel this approach will give concerned providers the reassurance they need that the right financial investment will reach the front line, and the patients it needs to at a local level.”

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(Image c. Dominic Lipinski)


Phil Barber   11/05/2016 at 17:07

When is the penny going to drop? There is effectively noreadily available mental health care, in England anyway, for most patients, and in particular no access to consultant diagnostic skills. Psychiatry has been dumbed down to a diagnosis-free zone, and without diagnosis there can be no effectice treatment. Patients in a primary care setting are managed by 'teams' with no medical leadership or even contributory involvement, and are normally rapidly recirculated back into general practice, even when dangerously disturbed - after all, where is there to put them? Mental health is the Health Service Emperor's New Clothes, the serious incidents which find their way into the public eye being merely the tip of a massive iceberg of deprivation. A national scandal, perpetuated by successive administrations, and yes, more broken promises this time round.

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