Funds cut for mental health trusts in England
Mental health trusts In England have had their funding cut by more than 2% in real terms over the past two years, figures show.
The BBC received data from 43 out of 51 mental health trusts following a Freedom of Information request.
The coalition has guaranteed the NHS budget will rise by 0.1% in real terms over the course of this parliament.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists is warning that mental health services are near breaking point.
Separate data for the same period shows referrals to crisis and community mental health teams have risen by 16%.
Care & Support Minister, Norman Lamb said: "It is completely unacceptable for local commissioners to disadvantage mental health in the allocation of funds to local health services.
"This completely conflicts with the government's clear position that there must be parity of esteem - equality - between mental and physical health. This must be a priority for NHS England to address."
The revelations come just weeks after one of the country's leading psychiatrists told BBC News that mental health services are unsafe and in crisis.
Comparing the total 2011/12 budgets with that for this year, 2013/14, there was a reduction of 2.36% in real terms. Of the 13 trusts that were able to provide indicative budgets for next year, 2014/15, 10 are expecting more cuts.
Prof Sue Bailey, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: "Even small cuts at this time can have a disproportionately large effect on the welfare of our patients.
"The services are stretched to their limit and if they stretch any further, the elastic band is going to snap."
Dr Martin McShane, from NHS England, said: "If you look at the figures, mental health trusts have taken more work on, they're more productive, they're delivering better value for the NHS.
"There are other parts of the system that are delivering services that might have been delivered by mental health trusts, such as psychological therapies."
Paul Farmer, chief executive of the mental health charity Mind said the ultimate consequence of the cuts would be that people do not get the help they need in crisis.
That is certainly the experience of Emma Bardney, who has a complex post traumatic stress disorder, but says she's been failed by her mental health trust.
"Its been really tough... fighting for the right to get better," said the 42 year old paramedic.
"There's been no community mental health support available to me. So my care plan has been sporadic out-patients with a consultant or crisis support and nothing in-between and the only way you can access support is when you are in crisis.
"So you have to get to a very low point before you get any type of support or help."
The pressure on crisis and community health services is highlighted by information provided to the online journal Community Care.
Using data provided under a separate Freedom of Information request, they found that:
- Budgets for 'crisis resolution teams' fell by 1.7% in real terms compared to 2011/12. Referrals rose 16%. These are the staff who provide intensive home treatment in an effort to prevent acutely unwell people being admitted to hospital.
- Budgets for community mental health teams shrunk by 0.03% in real terms since 2011/12 but referrals have risen 13%. These teams give ongoing support to patients to prevent their health deteriorating to crisis point.
"Mind hears all the time from people who have lost the community health care that was helping them to cope and who now find themselves unable to get through to their local crisis team," said Paul Farmer.
"They feel 'fobbed off' when they do, because there simply aren't enough staff to cope with the numbers of people in desperate need of help."
An analysis of the board papers of mental health trusts and reports from the Care Quality Commission shows the problems in the system:
- Patients in Cornwall receiving dismissive advice, with one being told "I am the only one working, don't kill yourself on my shift".
- Community health teams in Bradford complaining of "unmanageably high caseloads".
- Patients in need of an urgent assessment in Barnet, north London, not being seen for five weeks.
- Crisis teams in Kent spending as little as 10 minutes with patients. Mental health services in England are facing budget cuts despite the government's promise to protect health spending.