Through a series of Freedom of Information (FOI) requests I have uncovered that almost two thirds of Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) across the city region plan to reduce the proportion of the budget they spend on mental health for 2016/17, rather than increase it.
The Tory government pledged that CCG spending on mental health would increase at least in line with overall NHS budget increases, but it has broken this key promise, leaving people across the city region at risk.
Six of the seven city region CCGs responded to my FOI request and four plan to reduce the proportion of their budget they will spend on mental health. Nationally, more than half of CCGs (57 per cent) are planning a reduction.
Worryingly, the four CCGs which plan to decrease the proportion of their budget they spend on mental health – Southport and Formby, South Sefton, Halton and St Helens – already allocate below the national average of 10 per cent to mental health.
The amount CCGs plan to spend on mental health services as a proportion of their total budgets varies greatly. St Helens and South Sefton will spend just 6.94 per cent and 7.52 per cent – ranking them among the worst in the country, while Liverpool will spend 10.5 per cent.
The new figures prove that the government has failed to honour its promise to ensure that mental health spending increases in every part of the country.
Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, stated in an Opposition Day Debate on Mental Health in December that ‘CCGs are committed to increasing the proportion of their funding that goes into mental health.’
NHS England’s planning guidance states that all CCGs are required to increase their spend on mental health by at least as much as their overall budget increase.
In fact, time and time again Ministers have promised that mental health spending would increase. Yet the majority of local areas are planning to spend less of their budget on mental health.
Across the Liverpool City Region, too many people with mental health conditions are not getting the treatment they need. Services are stretched to breaking point, patients are at risk, and proper standards of care are being undermined.
For all their warm words about parity of esteem, it is clear that Tory ministers are not committed to achieving equality between physical health and mental health.
The government must urgently step in and prevent a dangerous situation developing.
I will continue to expose the gap between their empty promises and what is actually happening on the ground.