NHS spending on mental health services has fallen in the last year, according to two Department of Health reports.
According to figures corrected for inflation, spending on mental health care for working-age people fell by 1% and that for elderly people by 3%.
Three areas identified as priorities in the recent DH plan for implementation of the mental health strategy – outreach, home treatment and early intervention – together show a 6% decline in spending.
The figures contrast with the 0.02% decline in overall NHS spending over the last year.
Both DH reports note that the drop in expenditure does not in itself prove a decline in service activity or in outcomes; and that the proportion of budget spent on front-line service provision has risen.
In addition, spending on psychological therapies increased by 6%.
Mental health charities have responded with concern to these figures.
Sean Duggan, Chief Executive of the Centre for Mental Health, argued that investment in mental health services would reduce the cost to the NHS of treating chronic physical conditions in people with mental health problems (£8bn), and of treating ‘medically unexplained symptoms’ (£3m).
Mind Chief Executive Paul Farmer contrasted the spending cuts with the Government’s stated goal of ensuring that mental health was treated on a par with physical health.
“Given that mental health services have historically been underfunded, it is hard to see how a reduction in real-terms spending will lead to mental and physical health being on a level,” he said.
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