Despite a government commitment to ensure equality between mental and physical health services, many Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) are not using increases in their budgets to invest in mental health, a Freedom of Information request has revealed.
Lack of Parity
The YoungMinds charity’s findings show that only half of the CCGs in England are implementing an increase in their child and mental health services (CAMHS) budgets this year. This is despite them having received a share of £1.4bn designated for these services by the government under the Mental Health Investment Standard.
An NHS Providers survey of leaders of mental health trusts also revealed that 63% believed their CCG would not comply with the obligation to boost mental health funding. They are instead channelling the extra funds elsewhere, meaning that improvements to CAMHS care promised by the Government may not be achievable.
This means that there is likely to be a continued lack of parity between mental and physical health as pledged by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who has said that CAMHS is the biggest failing of the NHS.
Alhough YoungMinds found that some CCGs have increased their mental health spending, others are using extra money on other services. CAMHS accounted for just 0.7% of NHS spending in 2016, which is around 6.4% of spending on mental health.
YoungMinds Chief Executive Sarah Brennan said: “While some CCGs have made big increases in their spending, it’s deeply concerning that so many others are using some of the new money to backfill cuts or to spend on other priorities.”
CCGs, which have responsibility for commissioning healthcare services in their local area, should be using new funding to ensure they have the right clinical staffing to deal with CAMHS patients and implement the changes needed to ensure better balance in future.
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YoungMinds says that around three-quarters of children and young people suffering mental health problems do not get the help the need, and with demand for CAMHS rising, in many cases due to the influence of social media, it cannot continue to be underfunded. Public health bodies and mental health charities have long criticised NHS care of troubled teenagers and argue that mental health services make a vital contribution.