Stigma and taboo mean governments can still ‘get away with’ mental health cuts, says Alastair Campbell
- Credit: Sonya Duncan
Stigma and taboo mean governments can still 'get away with' cutting mental health funding, according to former Labour communications director Alastair Campbell.
Mr Campbell, now a prominent mental health campaigner, said money for services had been cut in a way not seen in physical health.
Speaking at an event looking to the future of mental health care in Norfolk and Waveney Mr Campbell described himself as an 'activist' and spoke candidly about his own experiences of mental illness.
He said: 'God forbid you cut children's services or cancer services but mental health you can get away with it. And you can get away with it because of the stigma and the taboo'.
Under Norfolk and Waveney's healthcare overhaul - known as the sustainability and transform partnership (STP) - mental health care is set to move away from inpatient treatment and towards offering more care in the community.
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Mr Campbell said this was the right direction 'as long as that is not being used as an excuse not to provide the care people need then that is the right way to go'.
He added: 'It depends on the quality of the community care.'
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Protesters confronted Mr Campbell and former health secretary - now independent chair of the area's STP - Patricia Hewitt as they entered the event at Carrow Road, Norwich, today.
Mr Campbell said: 'On the one hand they're saying services are terrible, and on the other hand they're saying we don't want any change. But there's a bit of a big inconsistency in that. If they're not happy with the services then at least look at some of the changes that are being made.'
But those outside the venue said changes would give way to more private companies coming into the health service, and would create a 'postcode lottery' - claims disputed by STP leaders previously.
Anthony Dooley, of the Suffolk User Forum, a group which supports mental health patients, branded the event a 'sham'. He said: 'We've now got 44 STPs, that's not a national health service it's a neighbourhood health service which means it will be a postcode lottery and each given their own pot of money.'
Mr Dooley said the concern was an area would run out of money and 'people will start taking out insurance like in America'.
Mrs Hewitt would not be drawn on whether there would be enough money in the system for planned changes to mental health.
The STP needs to save £24.4m in mental health between 2016 and 2021, but planned to make £38.8m in investment. That left £2.88m a year in the STP's life span to be spent.
Mrs Hewitt said how much money was available out of the area's £2.6bn total health and social care budget was still being worked out.
She added: 'As and when we get more money - which we certainly need - I have no doubt at all one of our priorities will be mental health.'