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Mental health services are being starved, says Norfolk's ex-coroner

PUBLISHED: 09:05 20 October 2014 | UPDATED: 09:05 20 October 2014

Former coroner William Armstrong has spoken out. Photo: Kelvin Alford.

Former coroner William Armstrong has spoken out. Photo: Kelvin Alford.

Archant

Mental health services are being "starved of resources", the chairman of a health watchdog in Norfolk has said.

Ex-coroner William Armstrong, of Healthwatch Norfolk, said cuts meant “more misery” for patients and their families.

He said he had seen a “fragmented and uncoordinated” approach to mental health during his time as a coroner.

The government said it was working to ensure “equality” in funding of mental and physical health conditions.

A mental health commission, which included representatives of the NHS, charities and Royal College of Psychiatrists, found mental health is underfunded by about 10pc or £10bn.

The commission said mental health currently receives 13% of NHS spend in England, but accounts for 23% of demand. The annual budget for NHS England is about £100bn.

Mr Armstrong, who was Norfolk coroner for 18 years, said he saw many inquests involving people with mental health conditions.

In September 2013, he presided over an inquest into mental health patient Matthew Dunham, 25, who died at Castle Mall shopping centre in Norwich.

In an interview with the BBC Mr Armstrong said: “Mental health services are being starved of resources given to other parts of the health system. We need to treat mental health on a parity with physical health.”

Mr Armstrong said the number of people killing themselves when suffering from mental health conditions could be reduced with the “right specialised treatment by the right people”.

Michael Scott, chief executive of Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We welcome William Armstrong’s comments and we’re pleased to see a healthy level of debate about mental health and funding.

“These are tough times for the public sector, and the NHS, and we believe that, at a national level, there needs to be greater focus on fairer funding for mental health services.”

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