08/01/2017 19:00 GMT | Updated 12/01/2017 11:30 GMT

Ex-Health Minister: It's 'Criminal' Child Mental Health Cash Is Being Used To Plug NHS Funding Hole

Norman Lamb will be grilling the Government in Parliament this week

Steve Parsons/PA Wire

A former Health Minister is demanding to know why hundreds of millions set aside for children’s health care is being used to plug holes in NHS budgets across the country.

Lib Dem MP Norman Lamb, who served as Health Minister from 2012 to 2015, told Huff Post UK it is “a criminal enterprise” that millions of pounds handed to local NHS trusts for children’s mental health provision is being diverted into other budgets.

In 2015, then Chancellor George Osborne pledged an extra £1.4billion over five years for the NHS to “transform” child and adolescent mental health provision.

Last month, it was revealed that half of the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) contacted by the Young Minds charity admitted the dedicated money was being spent in other areas.

Lamb said he would use a Parliamentary debate on Tuesday to quiz Health ministers on what action the Government will take to tackle the misspending of cash.

His anger comes on the same day Prime Minister Theresa May dismissed claims from the Red Cross that the NHS was in the grip of a “humanitarian crisis”, and also vowed to tackle the “stigma” of mental illness.

Speaking to Huff Post UK, Lamb said: “It’s scandalous. This was a pledge solemnly made by the former Chancellor in a Budget and if a Chancellor says there will be extra investment in children’s mental health I think people are entitled to believe that it will happen.

“But it’s not happening, and it’s not happening to the extent promised. It ends up with a sense that these are fantasy figures which sound great but if they’re not actually delivered, nothing changes.”

Lamb added: “There should have to be a commitment that in order to get the money, all the additional money will be spent where it’s intended, rather than propping up acute hospitals. It’s being purloined for other services.

“So many other parts of the country are totally stressed financially and so the money gets diverted.

“In other parts of society it would be regarded as a criminal enterprise that money promised for a purpose is being shifted elsewhere.

“It’s scandalous that it’s happening but I can’t escape from the sense that I have sympathy for CCGs, many of which are under completely impossible financial strain because the government is failing to provide adequate funding for the NHS as a whole.”

Research published last month by the Young Minds charity revealed the extent to which money set aside for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) was being misused.

An analysis of 199 CCGs responses to Freedom of Information requests showed that in the first year of extra funding (2015-16), only 36 per cent of CCGs who responded increased their CAMHS spend in line with the additional money. 

Nearly two-thirds (64%) of CCGs used some or all of the extra money to backfill cuts or to spend on other priorities.  

Additionally, in the second year of extra funding (2016-17), only half of CCGs (50%) who responded increased their CAMHS spend to reflect the cash boost. The other 50% are using some or all of the extra money for other priorities.