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Under the Microscope: Key issues you need to know about mental health budget cuts
A recent article on BBC News (2016) states that despite promises made by the government, mental health budgets are being cut rather than getting extra funding. The piece focuses on research carried out by the King’s Fund (2015), which suggests that 40% of the 58 trusts saw their budgets cut in 2015 – 2016. It also cites that for the first time in a decade funding for mental health fell in 2011 and has continued to do so year on year up until 2015/16.
Supporting these findings, The Guardian (2016) recently published a poll carried out for them by the Royal College of Nursing focussing particularly on cuts in mental health care for young people. The survey was centred around the thoughts and opinions of 631 workers in mental health services. 43% of those questioned believe that the care given was becoming worse, with understaffing and delays due to lack of funding the main problems. A general concern was reflected around the rationing of care and shortage of beds leading to young people self-harming and in some cases, taking their own lives. A nurse interviewed for the study felt one of the big effects of understaffing meant most patients are getting treated with medication as oppose to therapies which could be more beneficial. There is not enough time to sit and talk properly to the patients and focus on what they individually need.
This is an ongoing issue often raised in the media. In 2010 the coalition government promised an extra 1.4 billion pounds would be allocated to mental health services by 2020. Frontline staff, the Royal College of Psychiatrists and mental health charities express concern that the money is being diverted elsewhere.
Moving forward, the Mental Health Taskforce brought together a group of health care professionals, mental health experts and service users to create a ‘Five Year Forward View for Mental Health’. Published in February 2016 it sets out recommendations for the NHS to be able to improve the quality of mental health care given which they have accepted and agreed with the Government that an additional investment of one billion pounds per year up until 2020/21. In July 2016 the NHS then published their Implementation Plan, detailing how it intends to meet the recommendations. With seemingly false promises been made with regard to government funding in the past, the success of this remains to be seen.
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