Figures have suggested that mental health trusts in England have seen their budgets reduced by more than 8%.
Research by BBC News and the online journal of Community Care have found that the reduction has been worth almost £600m. Referrals to community mental health teams have also risen by 20% in the same time.
Care minister Norman Lamb said budgets were “not the full picture”.
He added: “Mental health care is given through a range of services including the voluntary sector.”
Through the use of Freedom of Information requests, annual reports and other extensive research BBC New and Community Care have compared the budgets of mental health trusts in 2010-11 with the year 2014-15. The analysis suggested that a 8.25% cut has been placed upon tursts, which is the equivalent of £598m.
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.
Norman Lamb said: “Funding for mental health has increased since last year but, for too long, mental health has lost out in local spending in many areas.”
He said the payment system in the NHS “disadvantaged mental health”.
“That’s why we are taking action, including introducing new standards for mental health services that local areas will have to meet, just as there are for physical health services – this is backed by £80m investment. This week we’ve also announced a £1.25 billion funding boost for children and young people’s mental health.”
Prof Sir Simon Wessely, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said he was surprised the picture was not worse.
“We are being asked to do more with less. We are campaigning and saying that people need to be more open about mental health problems and come forward earlier. But when they do, we find ourselves with less resources to treat them and they are getting short-changed.”
Paul Farmer, chief executive of of the mental health charity Mind, said: “The treatment gap for mental health is huge – 75% of people with mental health problems get no help at all. Meanwhile, many more are being turned away from services when they need them the most, left to cope alone with self-harm and suicidal thoughts. The next government will need to hit the ground running on mental health. We need to see a permanent increase in the NHS mental health budget of at least £1bn if we are to reverse the damage caused by years of neglect and recent cuts.”
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