Funding cut year on year at mental health trust, research claims
PUBLISHED: 10:25 23 February 2018 | UPDATED: 13:36 23 February 2018
Time to change/Newscast Online
Funding at the region’s mental health trust has been slashed year on year in real terms, new research claims.
Investigations by the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RcP) found £42m had been stripped from Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) since 2011/12.
And the college said this meant there was less money to spend on patient care.
One service user said they struggled to get support more now than in 2011/12 and the trust itself said national funding had not always followed the rate of rising demand.
NSFT is one of just nine mental health trusts in England to have suffered a year on year decline in its income in real terms, according to the RcP.
And it said mental health trusts’ income is lower in England now than it was in 2011/12 once inflation is taken into account, according to the latest available figures.
But Norfolk and Waveney’s clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) said an additional £16m had been invested in core mental health services since 2013/14 , with £13m going to NSFT.
A spokesman pointed to a new wellbeing service, perinatal services, and a new children’s crisis pathway as just some examples.
He added: “NSFT is only one provider of mental health services in Norfolk and Waveney. All five CCGs commission third sector and charitable organisations on a local level to reflect the needs of their local population.”
It comes as demand for services soars and NSFT was placed back into special measures by inspectors last year.
Thomas Colley, from Stalham, has schizoaffective disorder. He said: “I don’t know how money is being spent, however I do see a difference in conversations with GPs and specialists. The conversation is no longer about how the problem will be resolved but when they will be able to.
“It is evident that the people who want to help know that it won’t be easy, and I have been told by doctors that it’s not as easy anymore. I am struggling to get appointments, struggling to find help, and I believe this is perhaps due to funding in the mental health sector. I am struggling to get support more now than I was in 2011/12. All the staff I have seen have always wanted to do everything to help, it just seems they can’t.”
Kimberly Myhill, whose depression previously led to her losing jobs, said the funding situation in mental health was “critical”.
Ms Myhill, who now works for charity Equal Lives, said: “If services continue to be cut it will undoubtedly have a large negative impact, particularly on those who are not able to access services. You cannot cut funds to vital services without offering a suitable alternative solution.”
Simon Taylor, a self-employed roofing contractor from Attleborough, almost lost his business after a breakdown last year. The 24-year-old said: “I do think there should be more money put into mental health. Everything is spread thinly, if there was more funding it would not just be help when it is absolutely needed, but help when it could improve things before it gets to crisis point.”
Emma Corlett, Labour county councillor on the Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee, raised the issue of funding in December having undertaken her own calculations.
In December she said that although in cash terms investment had risen, the percentage of the total CCG budget spent at NSFT had fallen between 2013/14 and 2016/17. For 2017/18 it continued to fall at all CCGs except Great Yarmouth and Waveney.
Ms Corlett said: “These figures from the Royal College of Psychiatrists will come as absolutely no surprise to anyone trying to access mental health services or those struggling to work in them. It confirms what we have seen with our own eyes over the last six years.
“There is not enough funding to meet demand, and both NSFT and the CCGs should stand up for the people of Norfolk and say loudly to the Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt that they do not have enough money.”
An NSFT spokesman added: “We have begun to see some additional funding coming to our trust, for services such as our new mother and baby unit, investment in our mental health liaison service and our community memory assessment service (CMAS).
“And we are working really closely with our colleagues in the CCGs to ensure we are making effective use of the resources available, and to looking at how to best use these to benefit local people.”
In Suffolk, commissioners said: “Spending on mental health has increased, rising from £93m in 2014/15 to £103m in 2016/17 and to £111m in 2017/18. The CCGs also plan to increase mental health investment in 2018/19 in line with parity of esteem requirements.”