The budgets of mental health trusts in England have fallen by 8% in real terms – a drop of about £600 million – over the course of this parliament, research has found.
At the same time, referrals to community mental health teams have risen by 20%, according to the research by BBC News and online social care journal Community Care.
The BBC and Community Care used Freedom of Information requests, annual reports and other research to compare the budgets of mental health trusts in 2010-11 and this year, although out of 56 trusts contacted, only 43 responded and not all of those provided figures on all areas.
Their analysis found that, after taking structural changes in trusts and contracts into account, trusts have experienced a cut in real terms of 8.25%, equivalent to £598 million.
But in response, Care minister Norman Lamb talking to the BBC said budgets were "not the full picture.”
He added: "Mental health care is given through a range of services including the voluntary sector."
Mind's chief executive Paul Farmer said that the figures reveal the true extent of cuts to mental health services over recent years. “This week, the government announced extra funding for children and young people’s mental health services, a reflection of the scale of under resourcing,” he said. “Today’s figures clearly show that the rest of mental health services are suffering just as much and need significant investment.
“The impact of these cuts falls squarely on patient care. Bed shortages, cuts to frontline nursing posts and long waiting times for therapy have been well-documented in the last couple of years and, at the same time, demand has been increasing as more and more people come forward and seek help. 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. Those in power can no longer ignore the fundamental truth that services only work when they are properly resourced. We need to see a permanent increase in the NHS mental health budget of at least £1 billion if we are to reverse the damage caused by years of neglect and recent cuts.”