Norman Lamb describes government’s £600m funding to mental health services as “breakthrough”

Mental health. Pictured: A young woman suffering from depression is consoled by her friend. Picture:

Mental health. Pictured: A young woman suffering from depression is consoled by her friend. Picture: Newscast Online - Credit: Newscast Online

Former care minister Norman Lamb has hailed the government's announcement to inject £600m into mental health services as a 'breakthrough'.

His comments came after chancellor George Osborne said - while giving his spending review - mental health had been 'neglected for too long'.

Mr Osborne said the money would ensure 'by 2020 significantly more people' will have access to talking therapies, perinatal mental health services, and crisis care.

Mr Lamb, the MP for North Norfolk who has backed the EDP's Mental Health Watch campaign, said: 'I'm very pleased that there is dedicated funding for mental health.

'Getting mental health recognised in this way is certainly progress.'

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But Brian Dow, director of external affairs at national charity Rethink Mental Illness, said: 'During the last parliament funding for mental health services were cut in real terms by 8.25pc - almost £600 million.

'So the additional £600 million is of course good news.

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'However it's essentially a gap-plugging exercise as this is only pouring back in what's been drained out in recent years.'

In his review Mr Osborne announced a rise in the NHS budget from £101bn to £120bn by 2020 and added £6bn of the promised £10bn would be provided to NHS England within 2016/17.

But county councils' public health budgets, which funds services such as sexual health and stop smoking, will be cut by 3.9pc annually over the next five years.

And spending on non-NHS England activity, such as Health Education England (which trains the NHS workforce), will be cut by up to 25pc as part of savings at the Department of Health.

The impact of social care cuts on the NHS also left health chiefs concerned.

Meanwhile there will be radical changes to the funding of student nurses as the Conservatives aim to introduce 10,000 nurses by the end of 2020.

Mr Osborne said: 'Today there is a cap on student nurses; more than half of all applicants are turned away.

'We'll replace direct funding with loans for new students – so we can abolish this self-defeating cap.'

Janet Davies, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, said: 'The promise of 10,000 extra health professionals in this parliament will be a boost to the health service.

'Student nurses aren't like other students. 50pc of their time is spent in clinical practice working directly with patients. 'These proposals will saddle future generations of student nurses with even more financial pressures and unless nurses pay improves, many graduates will never be in a position to pay their loans back.'

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