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Doctors and patients demand more cash for mental health

They say mental health funding has been eroded while demand has rocketed

Mark Gould

Monday, 01 December 2014

Charities, patients groups and the Royal College of Psychiatrists warn that an already underfunded mental health service could be subjected to even further cuts next year.

Amid newspaper headlines on Saturday which revealed that a seriously ill teenage girl was detained in police cells for two days due to lack of a suitable psychiatric bed, groups including Rethink Mental Illness, Mind, the Mental Health Foundation, the NHS Confederation’s Mental Health Network, the Centre for Mental Health and the Royal College of Psychiatrists, have issued a joint statement calling on the Government to use Wednesday's Autumn Statement to address the funding crisis in mental health services.

Concerns for the welfare of the unnamed teenager were raised by Paul Netherton, assistant chief constable at Devon and Cornwall Police who spoke out on Twitter on her behalf saying that she had been held in a cell since Thursday last week because, he said, no beds were available anywhere in the UK.

NHS England said the 16-year-old was moved on Saturday night. A spokesman said: "After details were provided to NHS England about the girl and her condition, a place was found locally within a few hours."

However the news has revived concerns over lack of appropriate places of safety of children and young people in crisis. In the joint statement the groups say that it is also important that local commissioners assess the mental health needs of their local communities and act where there are gaps in services, especially in crisis care.

"The funding crisis in mental health services has been recognised by all, and it must now be addressed urgently. This is the moment to turn rhetoric into reality," the statement says. And they added that under new proposals set out by Monitor and NHS England, budgets for mental health services could be subject to cuts of 1.5% in 2015/16.

"Despite a commitment to protect the overall NHS budget, funding for mental health services has fallen in real terms for the last three years in a row. The current proposal would continue this trend, resulting in no new investment and more cuts to vital mental health services," they say.

Mental ill health is the single biggest cause of lost days in employment in this country, and a significant factor in the majority of suicides. Just one in four people affected by depression and anxiety are receiving support, and more than a third of people experiencing psychosis are missing out on treatment.

Subjecting mental health services to cuts would not address these important challenges, or help tackle the huge and long-standing disparity between funding for mental health and physical health. NHS England’s recent commitment to invest £120 million in mental health services to help introduce new access standards, whilst welcome, could be dwarfed by the suggested ‘efficiency savings’.

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