Half a million people with serious mental illness could lose access to counselling and other services as the NHS struggles to make unprecedented efficiency savings, campaigners warn.
Mental health services a soft target for cuts
Half a million people with serious mental illness could lose access to counselling and other services as the NHS struggles to make unprecedented efficiency savings, campaigners warn. Despite manifesto pledges from the three main political parties to increase access to talking therapies in the health service, Monitor, the independent regulator for NHS Foundation Trusts, has written to all the organisations it oversees, asking them to plan for deeper cuts than previously forecast from next month.
The suggested cuts of five per cent are equivalent to a spending reduction of an extra £50 million across the 40 Mental Health Foundation Trusts in England, according to Rethink, the mental health charity. It warned that mental health services were considered a ‘soft target’ for cuts, and that up to 500,000 patients with illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder could suffer if clinics and day centres closed or staff posts were lost.
Monitor produces forecasts each year to ensure that all foundation trusts, which control their own budgets, are managing their finances effectively. It revised its ‘downside’ estimates after last month’s budget. It now suggests that mental health services may have to make cuts of 4.5 to five per cent in the coming financial year, compared with about four per cent for acute hospital services.
Shôn Lewis, Professor of Adult Psychiatry at the University of Manchester, said: ‘These services are a soft option – you can drag money out and people won’t die straight away, unlike cancer services. What does happen is that some very vulnerable people have a miserable quality of life and may end up killing themselves a couple of years down the line. If that happens, then we have failed them.’