Chancellor George Osborne has pledged an extra £600 million for mental health care in the Spending Review, but charities have given the news a lukewarm reception, saying it isn’t enough.
In addition to the commitment to mental health services, Osborne said there will be a new social care "precept" in council tax of up to 2% to allow local councils to raise £2 billion for social care, and the Better Care Social Fund will be increased by 1.9%.
In a joint statement, the Cavendish Square Group, the collaboration of London’s 10 NHS trusts responsible for mental health, welcomed the commitment of greater funding, but added there were concerns over where it will be spent: “The promise of £600 million specifically for mental health as part of this is a very welcome move towards reflecting the major role mental health plays in our health economy.
“Any and all progress made towards fair and equal funding for mental health will help providers to meet increasing demand, provide world-class care to patients and deliver – in real terms – the government’s commitment to parity of esteem. It will be crucial that there are transparent arrangements to ensure new funds reach the frontline.
“Today’s announcement of a bolstering of the Better Care Fund, in order to improve integration between health and social care, is refreshing. We do however lament the absence of proportionate, whole system investment that would transform mental health services.
“Mental health care is, after all, not just delivered in hospitals – in fact patients have better outcomes if they are treated in the community and social care providers are absolutely critical to those services.
“While NHS budgets are protected, the burden of harsh cuts to local authority spend in recent years have been felt across the entire mental healthcare system, in communities and in hospitals.
“The introduction of the new precept to allow local authorities to add a levy of up to 2% to council tax – to be allocated exclusively for adult social care – will not, we fear, help to raise sufficient funds to counteract historic cuts in this sector and meet increased demand.”
Dr Rhidian Hughes, chief executive of the Voluntary Organisations Disability Group, agreed. He said: “The precept in council tax of up to 2% to allow local authorities to raise up to £2 billion by 2019/20 detracts from the reality that £6 billion is immediately required to fund adult social care. Demand for social care is higher in poorer areas, and with concerns about local and regional market failure, government needs to be alert to the fact that social care markets could fold.”
Meanwhile, Brian Dow, Rethink Mental Illness’ director of external affairs, was more critical of the Spending Review: “During the last Parliament, funding for mental health services were cut, in real terms, by 8.25% – almost £600 million. So the additional £600 million is of course good news. However it’s essentially a gap plugging exercise as this is only pouring back in what’s been drained out in recent years. So it's welcome, but realistically it's not enough to get anywhere near the government’s commitment to put mental and physical health on an equal footing.
“Only last month we carried out a survey with over 1,000 people with schizophrenia, and less than a third (28%) told us they had received the recommended minimum of 16 hours of talking therapies, and a quarter (24%) had to wait over a year to get any at all. So the fact that talking therapies has been highlighted in the Spending Review is a welcome step forward, but there is still an awfully long way to go.”