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Mental health remains 'Cinderella specialty'

Survey of doctors reveals psychiatry services remain at the bottom of the pile for funding

OnMedica Staff

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Mental health services remain the "Cinderella specialty", according to a survey of doctors published today.

Funding for many aspects of NHS mental health care has decreased over the past year with some patient services being adversely affected, according to the survey published by the BMA’s psychiatry committee.

In the survey of UK doctors working in psychiatric services, just over half (52%) the respondents said there had been a decrease in the overall funding for mental health services. The area most affected in the past year has been inpatient care.

Funding for day services, continuing care, and community mental health teams have also seen decreases, said the doctors, while secure and high dependency care and “access and crisis” services were most likely to have seen increases in funding.

Respondents were most likely to report that in their view the reason for the decrease in funding was because mental health was not seen as a priority area. Resources being focused elsewhere in the trust and a decrease in funding at a national level were also blamed.

Dr JS Bamrah, chairman of the BMA’s Psychiatry Committee says: “These results show worrying trends. They illustrate the concerns doctors have about funding, management practices and, in some cases, lack of services to patients. We have known for some time that mental health services are often at the bottom of the pile. Despite record spending in the NHS it appears that psychiatry remains a Cinderella specialty.”

Respondents said that cuts in funding have led to a reduction in the number of inpatient beds and some patients being admitted to inappropriate wards, or other services, or being discharged before they have been adequately accessed.

Just over half (53%) of doctors reported that low funding levels would result in a delay in accessing psychiatric services. Other adverse impacts included not enough clinical or nursing staff, lack of beds, and delays in implementing patients’ care.

In a separate report, The Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health and Lincoln University researchers said mental health services in prisons were not getting the investment needed to provide adequate care.

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