Mental health treated as ‘second class service' by the NHS

  • /images/mentalhealth.jpgThe Shadow public health minister has said figures reveal a 67% of clinical commissioning groups spend less than 10% of budgets on mental health services.

    As little as 6.6% of NHS budgets go toward mental health services, even though conditions such as anxiety and depression total up to 23% of the services overall burden of illness, reports the Guardian.

    This revelation has prompted claims that the NHS are treating mental health as a second class service and 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 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.

    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.

    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."

    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.

    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."

    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."

    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.

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