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As two reports out today show people with mental health problems are being affected by cuts to both health and social care services, Mind and other leading mental health charities have sent a clear warning to NHS England that further cuts risk patient safety.
A report by the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), commissioned by the Care and Support Alliance, has revealed that since 2005, 30,000 people with mental health problems have lost their social care support, following a £90m shortfall in funding due to cuts to local authority budgets. The research also shows that people with mental health problems have been disproportionately affected compared with older people or those with physical disabilities.
A survey by The College of Social Work found that three out of four social workers (76 per cent) say more investment in community mental health social work is needed locally. More than three in five (65 per cent) said that the professional challenge to social workers of supporting people with mental health problems has become much greater as, for example, the impacts of cuts to services and benefits take effect.
Another report, by Rethink Mental Illness, has found that services that help young people recover from psychosis, are struggling to survive in the face of major funding cuts. Half of Early Intervention in Psychosis services in England have faced cuts in the past year. In some places services are being disbanded completely.
Mind has put its name to a letter to the Guardian newspaper, published today, which warns that a recent decision by NHS England and the health regulator Monitor to cut funding for mental health services by 20 per cent more than NHS hospital trusts will put lives at risk.
Following the Mid Staffordshire scandal, all NHS services are obliged to comply with the recommendations in the Francis Report to improve care and safety for patients. NHS England have funded the additional costs of implementing these recommendations in the acute trusts but have withheld equivalent funding from mental health services, creating a significant gap in the budget.
In the letter, Mind, Rethink Mental Illness, The Royal College of Psychiatrists, the Mental Health Foundation, the NHS Confederation Mental Health Network and the Centre for Mental Health say the decision sends ‘a disturbing and deeply disappointing message, and is likely to have far-reaching consequences for people with mental illness.’
Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, said:
"It is becoming clearer every day that the funding cuts we have seen over recent years are really starting to bite, which is having a dramatic impact on people with mental health problems. Mental health services have always been underfunded and there simply isn’t any room to make additional savings without compromising the quality and safety of care. We need NHS England and the Government to take urgent notice of our warnings and invest in mental health, not reduce funds.
"Getting the right help to someone early on and providing ongoing low level support to keep them well is far more cost effective in the long term. If someone doesn’t get the right support, they are more likely to become unwell, reach crisis point and need far more intensive and expensive support further down the line."
Mind has launched a petition asking the Government to make sure mental health services get their fair share of funding.