In 2016-17, 62% of mental health trusts had less money to spend on patient care in real terms than they did in 2012. This is despite the introduction of the Mental Health Investment Standard, which requires clinical commissioning groups to increase investment in mental health services in line with their overall increase in allocation each year.
After years of underinvestment in mental health services, the additional funding outlined at the Budget is a small step in the right direction. However, it is still not anywhere near enough to achieve parity of esteem. As the Health Foundation points out, this extra money will not be enough to make any serious inroads into the substantial unmet need. The Institute for Public Policy Research has also said that mental health services would require more than twice the amount of the additional funds outlined.
The Government has repeatedly promised to give mental health the same priority as physical health, yet there are 4,500 fewer mental health nurses than in 2010 and a review of the Five Year Forward View has found that money intended for mental health services has been used to plug funding gaps in the wider NHS.
The King’s Fund has warned that a chronic shortage of mental health staff means that, despite new funding, the service won’t improve until Ministers provide a plan to increase the workforce. Nationally, approximately 10% of all posts in specialist mental health services are vacant, yet the Government has not outlined how much of the additional funding for mental health services would be spent on the mental health workforce.
The Chancellor should have offered meaningful action in his Budget to increase funding across mental health services and ring-fenced funds to ensure that money reaches the frontline. These are just some of the commitments outlined in the manifesto I stood on at the General Election last year and I can assure you that I will bear in mind the points that have been raised with me and follow developments in this area closely.