Mental health funding changes will put lives at risk, warn experts

Charities and professional bodies hit out at move to impose higher cut in NHS fees for mental health services than acute hospitals

NHS sign
Picture: Rex Features/Phaney

Patients lives will be put at risk due to controversial NHS funding changes for mental health services that ‘completely contravene’ the government’s commitment to treating mental health on an equal footing to physical health, experts warn.

In a letter to the Guardian, six leading mental health organisations say the decision to impose a 20% higher cut in the tariff for NHS mental health and community services than for acute hospitals next year will mean vital support is cut for patients at a time when services are already ‘straining at the seams’.

NHS England and health regulator Monitor are imposing a 1.8% cut in tariff prices for community and mental health providers in 2014/15. Acute providers face a reduction of 1.5%. The NHS bodies have justified the differential, first revealed by the Health Service Journal in January, by arguing that acute trusts had to meet the costs of implementing the recommendations from the Francis report into the Mid Staffs hospital scandal.

The letter, whose signatories include the Royal College of Psychiatrists and the Centre for Mental Health, warns:

“Mental health is chronically underfunded. It accounts for 28% of the disease burden, but gets just 13% of the NHS budget. Mental health services are straining at the seams and these new cuts will mean support is slashed in response to instructions from NHS England. This decision will cost much more in the long term as it will drive up admissions to A&E and the number of people reaching crisis and needing expensive hospital care.

“Mid Staffs was one of the biggest tragedies the NHS has ever faced. People died because those in charge failed to respond to repeated warnings that things were going wrong. Let’s not make the same mistake twice. Time is running out; we urge NHS England and Monitor to do the right thing and resolve this issue swiftly.”

The letter comes as charity Mind warned that tens of thousands of people with mental health needs have been denied social care support due to local authority cuts and research by Rethink mental illness revealed cuts to early intervention psychosis teams.

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