Mental Health Care ‘Must Improve’

A major spending boost is needed if mental health care is to meet the government’s expectations for 2010/11, a charity has warned. Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health examined the resources needed to meet the government’s 10-year National Service Framework.

It says public spending on mental health care must increase by a further 50% over and above inflation.

And staff numbers must increase by almost 40% to meet the targets.

The report says that although public spending on mental health services for working-age adults rose by almost 7% a year between 1999/00 and 2005/06, and is likely to reach £6 billion by 2010/11, the figure would need to be £7.5 billion to achieve government aims.

Staff numbers also need to increase by 38%, including almost 20,000 more qualified nurses, by 2010/11 to deliver the services.

The report noted that since 1999 expenditure had increased by an average of 6.7% a year, which it called a “substantial achievement”.

But Angela Greatley, chief executive of SCMH, said “major gaps” remained.

She said it now looked “unlikely” that the plan would be achieved in full by 2010/11.

However, Health Minister Rosie Winterton said the report provided further evidence of the increased investment in mental health services.

“As a result, patients are benefiting from more staff and services that are better geared to meet their needs.

“We will continue to increase numbers of staff, such as community development workers, and access to a wider range of services such as talking therapies.”

Sophie Corlett, policy director at mental health charity Mind, said: “The increases in mental health spending, although very welcome, were against a backdrop of massive gaps in services created by the long-term neglect of mental healthcare.

“This important and timely research shows us how far there still is to go.”

Liberal Democrat health spokesperson, Sandra Gidley said: “If the findings of this report are not heeded, the government will once again be guilty of neglecting and under-funding some of the most needy our society.

“Government must act. There can be no further excuses.”

And shadow Mental Health Minister Tim Loughton, said: “There are very worrying gaps in recruitment of professionals across all areas of mental staff.

“Sadly the government is happy with an administered chemical cosh of drugs for the alarming increases in the number of children suffering from mental illness.

“Their draconian approach risks more sufferers not coming forward and risking their conditions deteriorating under the clinical radar.”