New figures have revealed that half of Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), which set NHS trust budgets, plan to cut their spending on mental health for the next financial year.
Despite Theresa May’s pledge to give mental health parity of esteem with physical health, Labour MP Luciana Berger claims she has had to submit Freedom of Information requests on health budgets every year since 2014 after the previous government scrapped an annual survey of investment.
“Theresa May claims to be committed to improving mental health but her cuts are harming mental health services,” said the Wavertree MP, who is also chair of Labour’s Campaign For Mental Health and a member of the health select committee.
“This is the second year in a row that half of our cash-strapped Clinical Commissioning Groups have not increased their proportion of spend on mental health.
“Ministers must ask themselves how long this can be allowed to go on for. They are overseeing a system which puts patients at risk and staff under unbearable pressure.
“Enough empty promises. At the very least Jeremy Hunt must urgently introduce a ringfence around mental health budgets.”
Berger’s investigation comes as a government study of 10,000 young people revealed about a quarter of 14-year-old girls are showing signs of depression.
A total of 129 CCGs responded to her requests for information and revealed the amount spent in individual areas varies greatly.
South Cheshire will spend just 5% of its annual budget on mental health services, whereas Lewisham in London plans to allocate 16%.
In an exclusive blog for HuffPost UK, Berger writes: “The government talks about parity, but it fails to deliver. The result is that vital prevention and support services in our schools and communities are being reduced and even closing.
“That in turn means more people reaching crisis point and turning to 999 services – ambulance and police – desperate for help. The result is more people being detained under the Mental Health Act and spending unnecessarily long periods in hospital.
“It is good to talk about mental health - and we must keep talking. But now is the time for action.”
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt told an Opposition Day debate in 2015 that “CCGs are committed to increasing the proportion of their funding that goes into mental health” and NHS England’s planning guidance for 2017 - 2019 says all are required to increase their spend on mental health by at least as much as their overall budget increase.
A Department of Health spokesperson said: “We want people with mental health conditions to receive better treatment, no matter where they live.
“That’s why we have invested record levels of funding and started one of the biggest expansions of mental health services in Europe, creating 21,000 new posts by 2021.”