Mental health funding not reaching services, trust governors warn

Nurses among senior members of a London trust who are calling on local MPs to take action, as mental health funding is ‘nowhere near enough to meet increasing demand’

Nurses are among senior members of a hospital trust urging local MPs to lobby the government for adequate funding for mental health services.

The governors say a review of NHS funding standards is needed to ensure CCGs allocate enough to mental health. Picture: iStock

In a letter to MPs, governors at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM) say they are ‘extremely concerned’ that local services, run by clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), are not receiving the level of investment needed to meet demand.

‘Not translating into practice’

They write that government pledges of funding are ‘not translating into practice’ for the local services to which patients are referred by SLaM. Research by the group shows that across England 57% of CCGs are planning to reduce the percentage of their total funding spent on mental health in the coming year.

The governors acknowledge that the CCGs in the four London boroughs they serve – Lambeth, Lewisham, Southwark and Croydon – have been promised extra funding of around £700,000. However, they say this is ‘nowhere near enough to meet the ever-increasing demand’.

Care Quality Commission reports in recent years on services in SLaM’s catchment area, but not run by the trust, show increases in waiting lists for assessment and therapy and in transfers from emergency departments to mental health unit beds. Many buildings were found to be unfit for purpose.

The governors express particular concern about services in Croydon, where they claim there have been significant increases in referrals for people who need mental health treatment and support, but no increase in numbers of staff to treat them.

Recruitment difficulties

They warn that ‘valued and experienced staff’ have left due to overwork, stress and frustration, and recruitment is becoming increasingly difficult.

The governors have called for:

  • An immediate review of NHS funding standards to ensure CCGs review the current amounts and allocate enough to mental health.
  • Ring-fenced NHS funding for mental health, which takes greater account of inequality and deprivation, as well as population increases.
  • The MPs to write to the health and social care secretary and raise the issue in parliament.

The trust’s clinical academic group head of nursing for addictions Rosie Mundt-Leach is among the signatories, as is service user governor Christine Andrews, who has a background in nursing and counselling at GP surgeries.

Imbalance remains

Fellow signatory Ian Norman, executive dean of King’s College London’s Florence Nightingale faculty of nursing and midwifery, said: ‘For all the talk of parity between funding mental health and general health, there remains an inbalance.

'It is this inbalance we are trying to draw attention to, so hopefully the MPs we have written to will really highlight this issue.'

Former shadow health secretary and Lewisham East Labour MP Heidi Alexander is among the MPs who will receive the letter, along with Commons health committee chair Sarah Wollaston.

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