Doctors’ leaders have called for the £1.25 billion funding for improving children’s mental health services to be ring-fenced as there are fears the money is being used to prop up other areas of healthcare.
This call comes as some mental health trusts in England report seeing little investment, despite the government saying that an additional £143 million would be spent in this financial year. However, the NHS can show where the money has been allocated, according to a report on the BBC website.
The £143 million was allocated to a number of areas, with £75 million going to clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), £21 million to Health Education England, £15 million to perinatal care and £12 million to the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies programme. Other areas, including improving care for young people in the justice system, received smaller amounts.
Although this £143 million was significantly less than the £250 million campaigners had expected to be spent this year, when Chancellor George Osborne announced that £1.25 billion would be spent on improving children’s mental health services over the next five years in his March 2015 budget. But the Department of Health said in August 2015 that providers only had the capacity to spend £143 million this year.
Stephen Dalton, chief executive of the Mental Health Network, said: “Despite Government rhetoric and pledges, funding received by mental health services in England has been falling and bureaucracy is slowing its arrival. The slow pace of funding has resulted in a postcode lottery of care that is putting vulnerable people, including children, at risk.
“Last year the Government committed an additional £1.25 billion investment for mental health services for children and young people and we will keep fighting to ensure it reaches the frontline.”
Meanwhile, Dr Phil Moore, chair of the NHS Clinical Commissioners Mental Health Commissioners Network and vice-chair of NHS Kingston CCG, called for the funding to be protected: “Commissioners are passionate about improving mental health services for children and young people. As frontline GPs we know all too well the impact that unsatisfactory mental health service provision can have for our young patients and we welcomed the £1.25 billion fund announced last year giving vital additional money to invest over the next five years in ensuring they are provided with accessible high-quality care.
“However, despite our commitment to better mental healthcare for young people, it has to be acknowledged that CCGs are dealing with increasingly financially challenging times and a myriad of competing demands on budgets. This, combined with the fact that children and young people’s mental healthcare is in desperate need of heavy investment having historically been treated as a ‘Cinderella service’, is why we believe this to be a rare case where funding should be ring-fenced.
“Only by doing this can commissioners be confident that there will be no risk of pressure to spend the money provided from the additional £1.25 billion on anything other than achieving our ambition of making sure children and young people are provided with the best possible mental healthcare.”
The Department of Health said that £250 million would be invested in children's mental health services in the next financial year, according to the BBC. Meanwhile, NHS England says £89 million will go to CCGs, but the money has not been ring-fenced.