Half of clinical commissioning groups plan to reduce the proportion of their budget they spend on mental health for this financial year (2017/18), according to new figures from Labour’s Luciana Berger.
Of the 129 CCGs (62%) that responded to the freedom of information request, 64 (50%) plan to reduce the proportion of their budget they will spend on mental health.
In 2014, 67% of CCGs did not intend to increase their proportion of spend on mental health.
The next year, 2015/16, this number was 38% and last year, in 2016/17, it was 57%.
The amount CCGs plan to spend on mental health services varied between South Cheshire, which will spend just 5% of its budget on mental health services, to Lewisham which plans to allocate 16% of its total budget to mental health - an 11% range.
The Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, stated in an Opposition Day Debate on Mental Health in December 2015 that “CCGs are committed to increasing the proportion of their funding that goes into mental health.”
NHS England’s planning guidance for 2017 - 2019 states that all CCGs are required to increase their spend on mental health by at least as much as their overall budget increase.
Referring to the guidance in July 2015, the then Minister for Care and Support, Alistair Burt, said in Parliament: “That is as transparent as it has ever been, and we will ensure that that standard is maintained.”
“Parity of esteem” between mental health and physical health has been enshrined in law since the Health and Social Care Act was passed in 2012.
Luciana Berger MP, President of the Labour Campaign for Mental Health and a member of the Health Select Committee, said: “Theresa May claims to be committed to improving mental health but her cuts are harming mental health services.
“This is the second year in a row that half of our cash-strapped Clinical Commissioning Groups have not increased their proportion of spend on mental health.
“Ministers must ask themselves how long this can be allowed to go on for. They are overseeing a system which puts patients at risk and staff under unbearable pressure.
“Enough empty promises. At the very least Jeremy Hunt must urgently introduce a ringfence around mental health budgets.”
Professor Sarah Niblock, Chief Executive of the UK Council for Psychotherapy: "I’m disappointed that half of CCGs that responded plan to reduce the proportion they spend on mental health. While we welcomed the Government’s pledges of extra money, these were always far lower sums than what is truly needed – and now, it appears, that money isn’t reaching those in most desperate need.
“We are still a long way from the promised ‘parity of esteem’ between mental health and physical health. We believe there is an urgent need to ring-fence the mental health budget.”
A spokesperson from the British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy (BACP) said: “BACP has long been a passionate advocate of parity of esteem. Despite the challenges of rising NHS costs at a time of austerity, the disparity between spending on mental and physical health services – and the human suffering that results – must be redressed.
“Fundamentally, the principles guiding decision making about funding should be the same for both physical and mental health: funding should be directed to best effect for people and populations and should be proportionate to their physical and mental health needs.
“Mental ill health is costly in emotional, physical, social and economic terms for individuals, families, communities and the state. Funding to address mental health problems, including the provision of effective psychological therapies, should reflect the burden of disease in society.
“Mental illness accounts for almost a quarter of the total disease burden in the UK yet receives just 13% of the health budget. CCGs, with direction from NHS England, should allocate funds proportionate to the burden of mental health problems in their locality.”