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NHS figures reveal mental health spending postcode lottery

Tuesday, 14 May 2019 Mind

NHS data showing how much local areas across England are planning to spend on mental health services over the next year has revealed significant variation, according to analysis by the mental health charity Mind.

Mental health services have been underfunded for decades, resulting in poor quality services and long waiting times for treatments. In 2016, the NHS committed to investing £1.6bn in these services by 2020/21, and a further £2.3bn a year by 2023/24 as part of its Long Term Plan.

The NHS reports that all areas are meeting its Mental Health Investment Standard, which requires any increase in overall spending to be matched in mental health. This standard has promoted increased investment. However analysis by Mind reveals it does not show the whole picture. 

The latest NHS figures show significant variation, with some areas spending almost half per person on mental health compared to other places. The figures show: 

  • The area planning to spend the least on mental health is Surrey Heartlands – committing only 10% of its budget (only £124.48 per person per year/ £10.37 per person per month).

  • The areas of greatest concern include: Shropshire and Telford and Wrekin; Gloucestershire; Somerset; Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire; Kent and Medway; and Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire West which are all failing to meet the national average.

  • Some areas are investing more in mental health – with South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw committing to more than £220 per person per year/£18 per person per month.

  • Other areas that will spend the most include Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly (£208 per head per year/£17.33 per head per month/16% of budget) and North Central London (£205 per head/£17.09 per head per month/16% of budget).

Responding to these data, Geoff Heyes, Head of Health Policy and Influencing at Mind, said:

“The treatment you get shouldn’t depend on where you live. We are nearly at the end of the five year plan the NHS set out for itself, in which it promised to make serious financial investment to improve mental health services. We are seeing some positive change on the ground, across the country, but a long term historic postcode lottery still exists.

“The NHS and Government have made it clear that mental health is a priority. Some local variation is to be expected but the scale of the difference is huge and we know that the need outstrips resource even in the areas that are performing well. These figures show that not all local commissioners are getting the message.

“The NHS has rightly set itself even more ambitious targets in its Long Term Plan but this must translate into investment in mental health being prioritised in every single community. As planning and budgeting beyond 2021 begins, we will be pushing at a local level to make sure this is the first thing on the agenda.”

About the research:

  • Areas were defined by Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships (STPs - responsible for local care planning and spending). STP spend per head figures were calculated using NHS England overall weighted CCG populations 2018/19 (all ages), an ONS CCG-STP lookup file, and STP-level spend data from the FYFVMH Dashboard Q1 2018/19. Mind has not done any weighting or adjustment ourselves to these figures. See the full set of data, with sources.

  • These figures are taken from NHS Dashboard data covering the projected spend for the 2018/19 financial year, released with Q1 figures. Areas will report on the amounts they actually spent when Q4 data for the 2018/19 financial year is published.



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