Services left to juggle resources as cuts to funds hinder improvements

Mental health services are failing to deliver improvements for
users as they struggle with financial pressures, despite the
government making provision a top priority.

The warning follows research from the Royal College of
Psychiatrists showing that 2002-3 funding has been cut at 22 of 45
NHS trusts that provide specialist adult mental health services.

The combined reduction amounts to 0.8 per cent of total funding,
with the budgets of three trusts cut by 5 per cent or more.

The findings support anecdotal reports that the available funding
is not compatible with the government’s expectations on how mental
health services should be developed.

It appears that some trusts have only been able to carry out the
requirements of the national service framework and NHS Plan by
transferring staff and resources.

Some of the money saved from making efficiencies is not being
reinvested in mental health services. When it is reinvested, it is
sometimes “re-badged” to cover inflation or appear as extra

The report states that some trusts have “large recurring deficits”
that swallow up any additional funding. In other cases, mental
health trusts have to make “substantial contributions” to deficits
in other parts of the local health care economy.

There also appears to be some redistribution of funding, with the
three trusts subject to the biggest reductions having affluent
catchment areas.

Mental health charity Mind described the findings as “grim but not

Chief executive Richard Brook said: “Despite headlines announcing
new policies and new cash, the experience of services on the ground
looks to be getting worse, if anything.”

Meanwhile, the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health said new money
from the Department of Health was not making the impact it could
and that, last year, two-thirds of NHS mental health trusts faced
budget deficits.

One of them, Berkshire Healthcare NHS Trust, is likely to reduce
its psychotherapy services and close a day hospital to reduce its
£11.9m deficit to £3.8m.

– Research from the Royal College of Psychiatrists, tel 020 7235

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