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Norfolk clinical commissioning group one of just nine in England to miss mental health investment target as suicide rates soar

PUBLISHED: 18:46 23 June 2017 | UPDATED: 18:51 23 June 2017

File photo of a woman with her head in her hands. Photo: PA

File photo of a woman with her head in her hands. Photo: PA

One of Norfolk’s clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) is due to fall short of the amount of money it should be putting towards mental health despite latest figures showing the number of suicides in the area has rocketed.

Professor Sir Simon Wessely, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. Photo: Royal College of PsychiatristsProfessor Sir Simon Wessely, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. Photo: Royal College of Psychiatrists

Research from the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCP) has shown Great Yarmouth and Waveney CCG will not meet the national mental health investment standard for this year or the next.

They are one of just nine in England who have said that they will be unable to meet the standard set by the government for 2017/18 and 2018/19 because they are in too much debt.

But mental health campaigners have called the situation “intolerable” and pointed to the most recent figures available from the Office for National Statistics showing an increase in the frequency of suicides in Great Yarmouth and Waveney.

According to the RCP, money intended for mental health services is having to be directed elsewhere to plug spending gaps.

And they said the research highlights how much of a devastating impact the wider NHS financial crisis is having on patients.

Professor Sir Simon Wessely, RCP president, said: “We are aware that CCG finances are extremely tight but it is a shame that it always seems to be mental health patients that lose out.

“We will not rest until each and every CCG is doing what patients, families and the public want and will remain firmly on their case.

“We will remain constantly vigilant to ensure that the additional funding underpinning the delivery of the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health is not used to supplant existing spend or balance the books elsewhere.”

Mental health watch logo. Photo: ArchantMental health watch logo. Photo: Archant

The standard they are failing is The Mental Health Investment Standard (MHIS), previously known as Parity of Esteem (PoE). This is the government’s requirement for CCGs to increase investment in mental health services in line with their overall increase in allocation each year.

The achievement of this standard is calculated by NHS England by comparing the growth in mental health spend from the previous year to overall programme growth for each CCG. However, the CCG told the RCP that NHS England had so far not signed off their accounts, despite the financial year already beginning.

A spokesman for the Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk said: “The latest figures published by the ONS show an 84pc increase in the frequency of suicides in Great Yarmouth, adjusted for population size and age, between 2010-12 and 2013-15 which is 13 times worse than the national average increase. For Waveney, the increase in the frequency of suicides is 52pc which is more than eight times worse than the national average increase. Now, we learn that Great Yarmouth and Waveney CCG is one of only nine commissioning groups in England which claims it cannot meet the mental health standard this year or next.

“Given the appalling increase in suicides and years of cuts and bed closures, diversion of money meant from mental health is intolerable. We need money invested in front line mental health services not trousered by the NHS bureaucracy or diverted to pay off debts.”

All five of Norfolk’s CCGs responded to the freedom of information request from the RCP.

But Great Yarmouth and Waveney was the only CCG to report it would not be hitting the national standard.

A spokesman said: “The CCG increased mental health spend this year by 1.6pc, this is against an overall reduction of 0.5pc in spend.

“We have not decommissioned any mental health services.

“However, this has not been sufficient to meet the national mental health investment standard for this year.

“We recognise the need of our local population with mental ill health and we are looking at ways to increase spend in the future.

“We have also put additional investment into other services which support people with mental health issues such as primary care.

“Over the last two years the CCG has built up a financial deficit which has created a challenge when considering investment in new services.”

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