Spending in real terms on mental health has declined for the first time in a decade, a report for the Department of Health has found. Although one of the coalition’s first big policy announcements was to declare that mental health ought to have “parity with physical health in the NHS”, investment in mental health for working-age adults dropped by 1%, once inflation is taken into account, to £6.63bn. For the elderly the recorded fall in real terms spending was 3.1% to £2.83bn.
In total, spending on mental health services in England dropped by £150m, the first fall since 2001. However this drop comes after a decade of rising investment: in 2001 just £4.1bn was spent on working-age adults mental health.
The report shows the shifting composition of mental health spending with investment in the three traditional priority areas – crisis resolution, early intervention and outreach – falling for the first time by almost £30m. More than 6 million Britons are reported to suffer from depression and estimates put the economic cost of mental ill-health at more than £75bn a year.
Charities argue that there is wide variation in mental health spending. The mental health charity Mind found that “considerable variation in service provision, for example with one in five people still waiting over a year to access to talking therapies whilst others are seen in under 28 days”. Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, said: “This report shows a worrying trend … during difficult economic times mental health is an easy target for cuts.”
7th August 2012