Mental health services are only about half as well funded in some areas of England as in others, an new analysis by Mind has revealed. It has called for every single community to prioritise investment in mental health, to meet the “ambitious targets” in the NHS Long Term Plan.
Mind pointed out that as a result of decade-long underfunding, mental health services are often of poor quality and with long waiting times for treatments. It said that the NHS committed in 2016, as part of its Long Term Plan, to investing £1.6bn in mental health services by 2020/21, and a further £2.3bn a year by 2023/24. It found that all areas are meeting its Mental Health Investment Standard – whereby mental health spend must match any increase in overall spending – which has promoted increased investment.
But it said its own analysis reveals that this overall statistic “does not show the whole picture” because sustainability and transformation partnerships’ (STPs) budget commitment to per-capita spend on mental health shows significant variation across the country:
- Surrey Heartlands is the STP planning to spend the least on mental health services – committing only 10% of its budget, £124.48 per head, compared with the highest per capita planned spend of £220.63 in South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw.
- The areas of greatest concern include: Shropshire and Telford and Wrekin; Gloucestershire; Somerset; Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire; Kent and Medway; and Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire West – which are all failing to meet the national average.
- Other areas that will spend the most include Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly (£208 per head per year, 16% of budget) and North Central London (£205 per head, also 16% of budget)
The charity’s head of health policy and influencing, Geoff Heyes, said: “The treatment you get shouldn’t depend on where you live. We are nearly at the end of the five year plan the NHS set out for itself, in which it promised to make serious financial investment to improve mental health services. We are seeing some positive change on the ground, across the country, but a long-term historic postcode lottery still exists.
“The NHS and government have made it clear that mental health is a priority. Some local variation is to be expected but the scale of the difference is huge and we know that the need outstrips resource even in the areas that are performing well. These figures show that not all local commissioners are getting the message.”
He insisted: “The NHS has rightly set itself even more ambitious targets in its Long Term Plan but this must translate into investment in mental health being prioritised in every single community. As planning and budgeting beyond 2021 begins, we will be pushing at a local level to make sure this is the first thing on the agenda.”
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