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Budget 2018: Sector reacts to mental health funding announcement

Budget 2018: Sector reacts to mental health funding announcement
By Valeria Fiore Reporter
30 October 2018

Mental health will receive over £2bn a year by 2023/24, the Government said yesterday as part of the 2018 budget announcement.

Chancellor Philip Hammond announced a series of measures that will benefit mental health services, such as more mental health ambulances and a 24-hour mental health crisis hotline.

However, although the sector welcomed the extra funding for mental health, many experts believe the money allocated is not enough.

‘Parity with physical health services’

In the summer, Prime Minister Theresa May made achieving parity between mental and physical health one of the Government’s priorities when she announced that the NHS will receive £20.5bn in real terms by 2023/24.

Chief executive of NHS Providers Chris Hopson said: ‘The allocated money for mental health sends the right message about the importance of ensuring parity with physical health services.

‘However, while this funding is directed at specific new programmes, it is vital that we also see more support for core services for people with severe and long-term mental health problems.

‘And given previous commitments on mental health funding it is particularly important to ensure that, this time, any additional money does actually reach the front line.’

‘Only half of what leading mental health experts say is necessary’

Responding to Mr Hammond’ speech, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the ‘money is only half of what leading mental health experts say is necessary’.

He also said that the announcement failed to confirm whether the money will be ring-fenced.

Haemorrhaging of mental health nurses

Acting RCN chief executive Dame Donna Kinnair said the announcement would only put ‘physical and mental health services on an equal footing’ if the ‘extra money is ring-fenced to prevent it being diverted to ease crises at NHS trusts as another tough winter approaches’.

She added that around ‘5,000 mental health nurses have left the health service since 2010, so it’s difficult to see how this vision will be realised without a sufficient, well-trained nursing workforce’.

The King’s Fund director of policy Richard Murray said that years of austerity negatively impacted the service, meaning yesterday’s announcement is ‘no more than a small step on the road to parity of esteem’.

He added: ‘A chronic shortage of mental health staff means that, despite the new funding, the service won’t improve until the Government and the NHS provide a plan to increase the workforce.’

Increased spending on CAMHS needed

Young Minds chief executive Emma Thomas said her organisation welcomed the funding announcement but that there needs to be an increase in the overall spending on child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS).

She said: ‘With only one in three young people with diagnosable mental health conditions currently able to access NHS treatment, we also need a guarantee that there will be a substantial increase to overall spending on CAMHS.

‘We need action to tackle the black hole in support available through youth and community groups.’

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