Mental health trusts are “more productive” and “delivering better value for the NHS”, a NHS England director has said after figures showed that trusts were hit by real-terms budget cuts of more than 2% between 2011/12 and 2013/14.
The data, obtained as part of a joint investigation by Community Care and BBC News, revealed mental health service budgets have not kept up with inflation despite rising demand for care. The investigation also showed how patient care is being hit by the growing pressure on crisis and community teams, which saw a 16% increase in referrals between 2011/12 and 2013/14.
Care services minister Norman Lamb said it was “completely unacceptable” for commissioners to disadvantage mental health services.
“This completely conflicts with the government’s clear position that there must be parity of esteem – equality – between mental and physical health. This must be a priority for NHS England to address,” the minister said.
Following the minister’s comments, BBC News interviewed Dr Martin McShane, NHS England’s director for patients with long-term conditions, about the findings. Here’s what he said:
“There are pressures across all parts of the system, both financial and clinical and the NHS has responded really well to those.
“If you look at the figures, mental health trusts have taken more work on, they’re more productive, they’re delivering better value for the NHS. There are other parts of the system that are delivering services that might have been delivered by mental health trusts, such as psychological therapies.”
In a separate statement provided to Community Care, NHS England admitted that local commissioners “were given a real-terms increase in their available resources in 2013/14” but said trusts had also faced a “range of additional costs”.
The findings follow another Community Care investigation in October that highlighted the pressure on inpatient mental health services. It found that more than 1,700 NHS mental health beds have been closed since April 2011. At the time one of the country’s top psychiatrists said the mental health system was “unsafe” and “in crisis”.