NHS mental health funding falls in England - FoI figures

Patient with psychiatrist Image copyright Thinkstock

Funding levels for NHS mental health care in England have fallen in recent years, the BBC has learned.

Figures obtained through a Freedom of Information request showed the budgets for mental health trusts fell by 2% from 2013/14 to 2014/15.

This compares to a rise of 2.6% in hospital trusts' operating budgets, according to analysis by the Health Foundation think-tank.

The Department of Health said mental health care funding overall was rising.

In the year to April 2016 the budget for mental health trusts was projected to rise just 0.3%.

Of the 53 out of 59 mental health trusts in England which responded to the FOI request, 29 said their budget would be lower this year than last.

Mental health in England


projected rise in the income of England's mental health trusts

  • 29 of 53 trusts in England reported a drop in income

  • 1.4% fall in number of nurses working in psychiatric sectors between 2010-11 and 2014-15

The Health and Social Care Bill, which became law in the last parliament, included a demand for parity of esteem - meaning mental and physical health services should be treated equally.

But the BBC's investigation has found that for England's mental health trusts and health boards in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, which provide about £12bn worth of mental health care in the UK, funding is not keeping pace - and many are facing cuts.

In Scotland, mental health spending was up just 0.1% last year, and down a projected 0.4% this year. In Wales, spending was down 1.1% in 2014-15 and up a likely 1.2% in 2015/16.

Northern Ireland was the only country to see an increase in both years, with 1% additional spending last year, and 2.6% more this year.

Not the full picture

Anita Charlesworth, chief economist at the Health Foundation, a charity striving for better health and health care in the UK, said: "Mental health hasn't increased as a share of NHS funding, despite the fact that there are huge demands on the system, and access to care for mental health still falls way below that for physical health.

"The NHS clearly sees parity of esteem as a key priority and want to prioritise improving mental health. But problems in our hospital sector means that money increasingly is getting sucked in to meet their rising costs, and the NHS is struggling to actually commit resources to fund mental health providers"

A Department of Health spokesman said: "These figures do not show the full picture for mental health spend - councils, third-sector organisations and NHS England all play a role in providing services, and all receive government funding.

"We have made more money available than ever before for mental health, increasing our investment every year since 2010 to a record £11.7bn last year."

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It also argues community schemes like crisis cafes are on the rise, though many campaigners say these simply are not filling the gap in effective care.

The government is set to unveil its mental health taskforce report on Monday, the biggest ever study of mental health services in the England, with a five-year national strategy to improve services.

The Scottish government said extra investment in mental health had been promised.

A Welsh government spokesman said: "Spending on mental health services in Wales is rising. Indeed, we spend more on mental health services than on any other part of the Welsh NHS.

"The Welsh government has also made a significant new investment of £7.65m in child and adolescent mental health services this year - a 17% increase compared to 2013-14."

A spokesman for the Northern Ireland executive said: "In Northern Ireland...there has been increased investment in the development of psychological therapies hubs, which are locally-based groups of GPs and voluntary sector partners, who arrange for bespoke referral to and delivery of talking therapies to patients with low-to-moderate intensity mental health problems."

In the Mind - a series exploring mental health issues

More: BBC News special report (or follow "Mental health" tag in the BBC News app)

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