Increase in funding for Norfolk’s mental health services ruled out

Health spending plans have been a target for public protests during 2013.

Health spending plans have been a target for public protests during 2013. - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2012

The GPs in charge of NHS purse strings have ruled out any significant increase in funding for mental health services, despite calls for more investment in Norfolk and Suffolk.

The organising committee of a campaign to defend mental health services has pledged to lobby clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), and the acting chief executive of Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) has also called for more funding in recent weeks.

However, the five CCGs that cover Norfolk and Waveney have scuppered any hopes of a major increase in funding for mental health services at a time of increased demand.

The commissioning groups, which became responsible for local health budgets on April 1, pledged to continue to work more closely with NSFT bosses to remodel services and improve services without spending more money.

The Campaign to Defend Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk was officially launched last month by front-line staff, patients and carers to protest against further planned bed cuts at the mental health trust, which is slashing £40m from its budget and aims to cut bed numbers by 20pc by 2016.

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Officials from the five CGGs, which cover North Norfolk, South Norfolk, Norwich, West Norfolk and Great Yarmouth and Waveney said they had concerns about the timeliness of mental health assessments and treatments and the quality of communication back to GPs.

They are having weekly meetings with bosses at NSFT to resolve issues.

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However, they said they already spend more than £117m on mental health services a year across Norfolk and Waveney.

Dr Chris Price, chairman of the Norwich CCG, said it spent more on mental health than other areas of the country.

'We understand entirely that local people want to protect and improve mental health services. We all do,' he said.

'We are continuing to talk to our main mental health service provider, NSFT, to see how we can remodel services to deliver more care – within the tight budgets the NHS has.

'We believe that redesigning services can improve quality and efficiency without more spending.

'Those who call for 'more money from CCGs' know there is no more money in the system. It is a reality that if were to increase more money in one area we would have to remove funding from another.

'Clearly patients would not want us to cut their service to pay for another.'

Concerns have been raised that NSFT is already having to send some patients outside of Norfolk and Suffolk for treatment and the trust spent £13m over the last three years on private beds.

A statement from North Norfolk, South Norfolk and West Norfolk CCGs added that all NHS trusts were having to make savings.

'CCGs in Norfolk and Waveney have not cut the funding of mental health services, nor do they plan to.

'CCGs will help by looking at how to better integrate services so that patients who need mental health care have support closer to home and our services should all be linked so that social services, GP services and community services are working together to provide a seamless approach to caring for patients with mental health needs. As with most NHS services it is unlikely mental health services will receive significantly more funding in the future.'

However, the West Norfolk CCG had recently agreed to invest £424,000 for the remainder of the financial year in improving mental health assessments for A&E admissions at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn.

Andy Evans, chief executive with HealthEast, the CCG for Yarmouth and Waveney, which is set to launch a consultation in the new year over plans to cut bed numbers in the area, added: 'All NHS and public sector bodies are currently facing the same financial challenges as costs and demand both rise, which means they must redesign the services they provide to improve their efficiency and allow them to do more for less.

'Alongside our fellow commissioners, we are working closely with NSFT to make sure that any changes the trust makes are managed effectively and without compromising the quality of care which patients receive.'

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