The amount spent by commissioners on mental health services fell on average in 2015/6, according to Freedom of Information (FoI) requests by Labour – and the party has accused the government of going back on its pledge to boost funding for the sector.
Labour’s FoI requests found that 50 of the 130 clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) that responded plan to cut the proportion of the budget they allocate to mental health for 2015/6. On average, CCGs plan to spend 10% of their budgets on mental health services, compared to 11% the previous year.
However, the government has refuted these figures, saying that mental health spending has increased by £0.4 billion this year and that it is a government priority. Likewise, NHS England said that CCGs plan to spend 13% of their budgets on mental health, according to the BBC.
Labour’s figures revealed wide variation in spending on mental health by CCGs. While Lincolnshire West CCG allocated 20% of its budget to mental health, North, Eastern and Western Devon CCG only spent 6% of its budget on it.
Shadow public health minister Luciana Berger accused the government of reneging on promises to increase spending on local mental health in line with local CCG budgets. "… too many CCGs actually plan to spend less of their budget on mental health this year," she said to the BBC.
Brian Dow, director of external affairs at Rethink Mental Illness, called for more transparency about spending on mental health. “There is reasonable variation and unwarranted variation,” he said. “Having one CCG apparently spend 6% of its budget on mental health, while another spends 20% can’t possibly be down to differences in local need, and does suggest that someone needs to take a grip. Until we get the pricing system for mental health services right, there seems little chance of the money actually filtering down to the place it is needed most.
“These figures ought to be publicly available because behind the mess, far too many real people with illnesses like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are missing out on the care and support they so desperately need.”