England

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Mental health budgets cut

A counselling session or psychiatric interview. Patient is not in focus, only hands of clipboard of interviewer can be seen

Doctors have raised fresh concerns about the underfunding of mental health hospitals after Health Foundation research for the BBC found their budgets had shrunk by £150m in the past four years.

The reductions come despite Government claims that NHS funding has increased by £8bn, a figure that has been widely disputed.

Health Foundation economist Anita Charlesworth told the BBC that mental health trusts received a shrinking share of the NHS budgets as demand from patients increased.

‘The NHS has not set out to cut mental health services but … they’ve had to look for cuts to make up that budget shortfall and often it is mental health services that have borne the brunt of those.’

The Department of Health disputes the Health Foundation’s analysis, which was prepared for the BBC Panorama programme on Monday, and also highlighted a rising number of unexpected patient deaths in England’s mental health trusts.

A survey of mental health trusts using a Freedom of Information request found a 50 per cent increase in unexpected deaths between 2012-13 and 2015-16.

The DH said the trend was owing to changes in the way deaths were recorded and investigated.

BMA community care committee chair Gary Wannan said: ‘It is wholly unacceptable that the chronic underfunding of mental health services has left some of the most vulnerable people in society without the care and support that they desperately need.’

He added: ‘It is vital that mental health problems are identified and diagnosed as early as possible and that people have access to the right help and support.

‘Yet despite mental health problems affecting a quarter of the population, spending on mental health services is only 11 per cent of the NHS budget.’

See the BBC report

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