Impact of spending on mental health is unclear
Author: Adrian O'Dowd
Although 11% of the Welsh NHS budget is spent on mental health every year, it is unclear what impact this is having or the outcomes on mental health services, according to a new report from the Plaid Cymru party.
Its report A check-up on mental health compares Welsh NHS mental health services with those in a range of other countries including the Netherlands, Sweden, and elsewhere in the British isles.
The research found that although £750m was being spent every year on mental health services in Wales, it was impossible to measure the success of that spending beyond anecdotal evidence because of a lack of national research.
The report also highlighted the fact that Wales has fewer mental health inpatient beds compared with other countries, a comparatively smaller specialist workforce, and a lack of services for young peoples’ mental health needs.
Plaid Cymru’s shadow health and social services minister Helen Mary Jones who commissioned the report, said: “In the run-up to forming the next Welsh government in May 2021, Plaid Cymru is taking mental health services seriously. We recognise the need to improve outcomes for those using services in Wales.
“Wales spends substantial amounts of money on mental health services – around £750m per year. However, although Wales has a comparatively high expenditure on mental health, we just don’t have the outcome measures to evidence success, especially in the face of growing awareness of mental health problems.
“In fact, the anecdotal evidence we have from constituents, as well as a number of reports… suggest that people’s experience of mental health services isn’t as good as it should be.
“This report raises serious issues about the capacity of the Welsh NHS to deal with the challenges of increased pressure on mental health services and to put service users at the centre of their own treatment.”
Nesta Lloyd-Jones, interim director of the Welsh NHS Confederation said: “Providing people with the mental health services and care they need is a key priority for the Welsh NHS and in our response to the Parliamentary Review we recommended that meaningful outcome measures for mental health and primary care services needed to be developed.
“We are therefore pleased the Welsh government’s long-term plan for health and social care, A Healthier Wales, incorporated physical, mental and emotional wellbeing as well as the development of high-quality outcomes and standards.
“We know that in order to achieve person-centred care and to maintain people’s mental health and wellbeing, the NHS needs to work with public sector, and our partners within communities. If we are to reverse the growing demand on mental health services, our approach is going to have to be about more than the NHS, focussing on making early interventions and prevention.
“There are, of course, significant pressures faced by the NHS in Wales, including recruitment and retention of staff and increasing demand for services which underline the need to change our approach.”