Funding for Mental Health Services Rises in Real Terms. So Why the Crisis?

Unusually for the issue of mental health, it found its way into the headlines twice this week.
In the first instance, the Royal College of Nursing revealed that staff cuts and bed shortages were leaving mental health services "under unprecedented strain", with 3,300 fewer posts in mental health nursing than in 2010 and a total of 2,179 beds cut since April 2011. At the same time, they said, demand had increased by 30%. Even in wards that remain, there is the problem of over-occupancy, with adult acute admission wards running at an average monthly occupancy level of 101% for the last two years. The Royal College of Psychiatrists say that the occupancy level should be 85%.
Dr. Peter Carter, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, said that such cuts risk making previous good work obsolete, and went on to say: "if staffing levels and services are cut back further, then services will continue to crumble, which would be a tragedy for us all, to say nothing of the thousands of private tragedies that could result."
As if to prove this point, it was revealed later in the week that since 2012 in England, seven mental health patients had killed themselves after being told that there were no hospital beds for them. Another patient was said to have killed his mother after being denied a bed.
Despite this abundance of evidence showing a service under real strain and the very real consequences of that strain, NHS England said that spending on mental health was increasing in real terms, and Dr. Martin McShane, NHS England's director for people with long-term conditions said: "... the long-term solution is not just about beds, or buildings... but about finding the right solution for each patient." One might say in response that in the case of the seven suicides and one killing, the "right solution" most definitely wasn't found. Indeed, Wendy Wallace, head of Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust, bemoaned NHS England's lack of interest in the problem, stating that there was "not even an investigation into the situation nor a plan of action."
As if to rub salt into the wound, a spokesman for the Department of Health said: "mental health is a priority of this government which is why we announced last month an additional £120 million to improve care and introduce the first ever waiting standards, which underpins our legislation of parity of esteem." The government is also hoping that the Mental Health Crisis Care Concordat, its flagship policy for improving care, will change mental health provision. However, just one month before a deadline for areas to sign up to the agreement, just one third have done so, while only six have announced plans on how they will put it into practice.
So, it seems that what is happening "on the ground" is entirely different to the situation as it is painted in the statements from NHS England and the Department of Health. To say, then, that this government papers over the cracks in its policies is an understatement. Could it not be that this is simply part of scheme to dismantle and privatise our beloved NHS, while all the time denying that they are doing so? What is entirely clear is that mental health services are in crisis, and the human cost of that crisis is all too appallingly evident.   

     

Comments

Dixie@dcrelief said…
Dear David,
"Parity of esteem"? Seems more like a plethora of pain... if we need a catch phrase. They cut funds which reduced beds and staff. Now there's a crisis. So rather than reverse the prior decision on cuts, they throw a a bit of money to "the cause", under guise of equal value? Waiting standards relieves them of the rising suicides or destoyed lives? I think not. Your phrase, "papering the cracks," is on target. Much like our beloved Obamacare, the insurance companies have increased control and perks. The government benefits but not the people. Call me simple, but I would think the solution would be to return the funds for beds and staff. And I would also abolish Obamacare.

Excellent post. I hope I captured the essence of your message. Have a very pleasant week.
Most sincerely,
Dixie
bazza said…
Hi David. Cutting any sort of health funding is self-defeating because prevention is cheaper than cure. This applies to mental health care as much as any other.
Oddly enough my service , known as IAPT, has greatly expanded recently with lots of extra staff both clinical and admin. We process our clients very quickly so some parts of NHS mental health are doing well!
David said…
Hi Dixie,
I think you have "captured the essence" of my post with your comment. We would all like the staff and beds not to be cut, because as bazza rightly says below, any cuts are self-defeating because prevention is cheaper than cure.
Thanks for your continued interest, Dixie, and might I take this opportunity to wish you a very merry Christmas!
Best Wishes,
David.
David said…
Hi bazza,
I'm quite surprised that your own mental health service is doing so well, as by most accounts the rest of the country is in some sort of crisis! We're certainly feeling the pinch in Stoke, what with both beds and jobs lost, resource centres closed, etc. Still, I'm glad that at least someone may be getting the care they need!
Thanks, as always, for your thoughts, bazza, and a very happy Christmas to you!
Best Wishes,
David.
Dixie@dcrelief said…
David,

Just a quick note - I have always enjoyed your articles. They encourage the matter within my skull to oscillate.(smile)
Merry Christmas, friend!

Dixie
Dixie@dcrelief said…
I hope you'll have a very Merry Christmas!!
Dixie@dcrelief said…
Dear David,

Cheers, and well wishes for this New Year. Know that as you travel along, I keep you in my thoughts and prayers.

Maybe we'll glimpse you in blogland again soon.

Most sincerely,

Dixie

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