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Stump up for mental health care or face consequences, CCGs told

NHS England warns commissioners they must comply with mental health investment standard for 2018-19

Caroline White

Friday, 06 April 2018

CCGs that fail to plough enough cash into mental health services this financial year will face sanctions, NHS England (NHSE) has warned in a letter.

The letter follows concerns that mental health is not being given parity with physical healthcare.

NHS England has written to every CCG to advise that they must deliver on the mental health investment standard (MHIS), and a key NHS funding pledge, to meet rising demand.

Claire Murdoch, NHS England’s national mental health director, has ordered CCGs to ensure they boost their budget on mental health at a faster rate than their overall programme funding.

Describing this time as “a landmark moment for England’s mental health services,” she explained: “The requirement to increase mental health spending faster than overall growth in health spending is not only a crucial enabler of high-quality patient care, but a demonstration of the NHS’s commitment to putting mental and physical health on a level footing.”

She made it clear that while she understood competing demands on budgets, CCGs would have to act.

“I also want to emphasise to you that regardless of pressures, meeting the MHIS is not an optional extra, but something we are deeply committed to and expect every CCG to achieve. Failing to meet the MHIS in 2018/19 would be unacceptable to us all,” she wrote.

Most CCGs (85%) were meeting the standard she said, “but nearly nine in 10 is not enough.”

Every CCG will be audited on its spend and those that fail to stump up will have to explain why to her or other senior NHS England officials, she said.

“Where our data analysis suggests that an individual CCG is not on track to meet the standard, their financial director and operations director will be called directly by a member of our mental health unit or myself, to seek assurances on local and regional plans to put this right,” she warned.

She added: “Further follow-up will be pursued through the national performance and delivery group as well as regional deep-dive meetings, which I will chair, reporting regularly to Simon Stevens.”

She concluded: We are now two years in to the Forward View for Mental Health, and in most of the country, services are improving, money is getting through and more people are getting the care they need. We need to continue to build momentum, with every single part of the country meeting their obligations to ensure one million more people get care by 2021.”

In response to the letter, Sean Duggan, chief executive of the Mental Health Network, at the NHS Confederation, said: “Access to well-funded, high quality services should not be determined by where you live which is why we welcome NHS England’s move to ensure all areas receive essential funding for mental health services.

“While the standard was met both nationally and regionally in 2016/17, this hides variation around the country, with around 15 per cent of individual clinical commissioning groups not reaching the mental health investment standard.”

He added: “We appreciate decisions around funding are never easy for commissioners, but it is crucial that, as promised, mental health services are given parity to physical health services.”

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