By Denis Campbell, The Guardian
Shadow public health minister says figures show 67% of clinical commissioning groups spend less than 10% of budget on mental health services.
Many parts of the NHS spend as little as 6.6% of their budgets on mental health, even though conditions such as anxiety and depression make up 23% of the service’s overall burden of illness.
The disclosure has prompted claims that the NHS treats mental health as a second-class service and that patients in areas where few services are provided locally are receiving poorer care as a result.
Freedom of information requests to England’s 211 GP-led local NHS clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) by Luciana Berger, shadow public health minister, show that 72 of the 142 (67%) which responded spend less than 10% of their budget on mental health services.
Berger said the figures showed that people needing help were faced with an “alarming postcode lottery”.
She added: “Mental health should be treated no differently to physical health. People with mental illness shouldn’t have to expect different standards of care simply because of where they live.”
Among the respondents, Surrey Heath CCG spends the least on mental health – just £7m (6.55%) of its £107m budget – closely followed by Solihull (6.69%) and Northern, Eastern and Western Devon (6.74%). The three biggest spenders are West London (18.02%), Central London (17.31%) and Lambeth in south London (16.69%).
Labour’s findings also showed that CCGs in some of the areas with the largest numbers of people with a mental health problem spend the least on such care. For example, although 31% of people in Merton in south London are estimated to have a mental health disorder, Merton CCG spends just 9.74% of its budget on services to treat psychological conditions.
Similarly, Bradford City and Southport-Formby CCGs spend just 8.85% and 8.40% of their budgets respectively.
Professor Sir Simon Wessely, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said some variation in spending based on need was natural and that some CCGs were doing well. However, “what we wouldn’t expect – which is extremely worrying – is that when you look at the levels of serious mental illness in each CCG compared to the levels of spending, there are serious discrepancies. So, two CCGs may have exactly the same level of need, but one is spending half as much as the other.”
It was a “serious concern” that so many CCGs were spending below the national average of 10%, Wessely added. “This is having a major impact on patient care.”
Mark Winstanley, chief executive of Rethink Mental Illness, said that despite the coalition’s promise to give mental health problems “parity of esteem” in the NHS with physical health conditions, “this data shows that mental health is still a second-class service in the NHS”.
“The level of support available to people with mental illness is massively inconsistent across the country. Huge numbers of people who are in crisis are waiting years for treatments such as early intervention care which have been proven to help people get better,” he said.
Ministers and the NHS were failing to ensure that services needed by people with serious mental ill-health were in place, Winstanley added. “We would never accept this situation for people suffering from cancer or experiencing a heart attack, so why should people with severe mental illness have to put up with it?”
Norman Lamb, the care and support minister, criticised the huge variation in spending. “It is unacceptable to disadvantage mental health when allocating funds,” he said.
Next April, the coalition would introduce maximum waiting times for mental health treatment for the first time, thus ending “an institutional bias against mental health” in the NHS, which the Labour government introduced, Lamb said.
Source: The Guardian
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