Worries that mental health services ignored in autumn budget

NHS leaders and charities have expressed concerns about the lack of attention given to mental health services in last week's budget, with some asking for a renewed commitment that promised money will be made available

NHS leaders and charities have expressed concerns about the lack of attention given to mental health services in last week's budget.

Chancellor Philip Hammond leaves 11 Downing Street to present
his autumn budget to parliament. Picture: Alamy

Chancellor Philip Hammond pledged £2.8 billion for the health service in England over the next three years and additional funds to cover any public sector pay rise recommended by the NHS pay review body.

But there was little mention of wider mental health funding in the autumn budget on 22 November. Health leaders are worried about where this leaves the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health, which aims to bring equality between physical and mental health.

NHS England national director for mental health Claire Murdoch used Twitter to express her concerns about the impact on the forward view and stressed that plans must continue ‘at pace’.

Mr Hammond outlined a £28 million fund to provide additional community services, including mental health, for those affected by the Grenfell Tower fire in London this summer.

Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust, of which Ms Murdoch is chief executive, welcomed the funding announcement for the Grenfell community in its area but said the trust is waiting for details.

Mental health charities also called for assurances that the promised £1 billion investment for the service by 2021 was protected.

Centre for Mental Health chief executive Sarah Hughes said: ‘This is the very least we need to see to improve access to mental health support and the quality of care people get, and to recruit and retain the people we need to boost services across the country. And it needs to be translated into significant real-terms increases in spending on mental health services in every CCG in England.’

She added: ‘We are concerned that the budget does not make any specific mention of the vital work of social services, public health and housing to people’s mental health.’

Mind chief executive Paul Farmer said NHS chief executive Simon Stevens had indicated in a recent speech that money earmarked for mental health was under threat if additional overall funding was not forthcoming.

‘We need an urgent recommitment from the Department of Health and the NHS that the money promised will be made available,’ Mr Farmer said.

The budget document states that ‘the government is committed to parity of esteem between mental health and physical health’.

It also says a green paper will be published in December setting out the government’s plans to transform mental health services for children and young people.

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