Many constituents come to me distressed at the lack of support for mental health in Bolton South East. Waiting lists are too long, staffing levels are low and the therapeutic services are scant.
Around one in four people in the UK suffers from a mental health problem each year, yet mental ill-health often goes untreated and historically treatment options compare unfavourably with those for physical conditions.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists reports that 62% of mental health trusts have less money to spend on patient care now in real terms than they did in 2012. This is despite the introduction of the Mental Health Investment Standard in 2015-16, which requires clinical commissioning groups to increase investment in mental health services in line with their overall increase in allocation each year.
The Government has repeatedly promised to give mental health the same priority as physical health, yet there are 5,000 fewer mental health nurses than in 2010 and a review of the NHS Five Year Forward View has found that money intended for mental health services has been used to plug funding gaps elsewhere.
At the 2018 Budget, the Chancellor announced that funding for mental health services will grow as a share of the overall NHS budget over the next five years. However, I believe this will do little to relieve the severe pressures on mental health services that have built up after years of underfunding. The Institute for Public Policy Research has said mental health services need double the funding that the Chancellor has promised, and there is no plan in the Budget to address the chronic shortage of mental health staff.
The King’s Fund has warned that mental health services will not improve without a plan to increase the workforce. The Government should act urgently to address workforce concerns and ensure that the NHS can deliver the safe care patients deserve.
If Ministers are to be taken seriously on mental health, I believe that they must increase spending on services, ring-fence mental health budgets and ensure that funding for mental health reaches the front line. These were all commitments outlined in the manifesto I stood on at the 2017 general election.
Furthermore, any ‘increases’ to funding, must be indexed to inflation and population growth, otherwise, they are not increases in real terms.