Mental health service budgets ‘cut by 8%’
Mental health trusts in England have seen their budgets fall by more than 8% in real terms over the course of this parliament, according to recent figures. The reduction, worth almost £600m, was revealed through research by BBC News and the online journal ‘Community Care’. At the same time, referrals to community mental health teams, which help people avoid being admitted to hospital, have risen nearly 20%.
Care minister Norman Lamb said budgets were “not the full picture”, emphasising that “mental health care is given through a range of services including the voluntary sector.”
56 trusts were contacted for information, 43 responded – but not all provided data on all areas. Taking changes to trust structures and contracts into account, analysis suggests trusts have suffered a real terms cut of 8.25% – the equivalent of stripping £598m from their budgets. Some trusts like Pennine Care and Lincolnshire have seen funding increases, but most have suffered cuts – such as Leicestershire and West London which have seen above average losses.
Julie Crossley, a medical injury specialist lawyer at Ashtons Legal comments: “This is a major concern. Our clinical negligence team has seen an increase in mental health litigation claims recently. We also frequently support families at Inquest following the death of a patient who is perceived to have been let down by Mental Health Services, either through a lack of support or supervision. The failure to maintain or increase the budget in this area will inevitably lead to further claims in the future.”
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