Is the NHS failing Mental Health Patients?
The NHS has announced that they are slicing £4.5 million from their spending on mental health over the next year. Walsall will suffer the most, losing £1.9 million, with other affected areas being Sefton, St Helens, North Yorkshire, and the Isle of Wight.
These cuts come after the publication of the Five Year Forward View, where the NHS stated Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) need to increase their spending by £1 billion to meet mental health needs over the next five years.
With celebrities like the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Harry and Lady Gaga promoting the importance of changing negative perceptions by talking about mental health, the question has to be asked: is the NHS failing mental health patients?
Findings from the Mental Health Foundation shows that no one is safe from the risk of suffering from a mental illness. In fact, almost 50% of adults believe they have experienced a diagnosable mental health condition, yet only around 30% of them have been given a diagnosis. At 26%, women with a mental health problem aged between 16-24 far more likely to struggle than males in their age bracket, with only 9% of young men being diagnosed, though this may be due to a lack of willingness of men to seek help for a mental health issue.
The unemployed are particularly at risk. More than 60% of people in receipt of Employment and Support Allowance have been diagnosed with common mental health problems, while the same number say they have had suicidal thoughts. 43% have attempted suicide, and 33% have self-harmed. It is clear this group of people needs swift and targeted support, but how can this be possible with such significant budget cuts?
There is some evidence that supports the belief that the NHS is failing mental health patients. The Mental Health Taskforce, which undertook the studies that led to the recommendations in the Five Year Forward View, found that although mental illness takes up 23% of NHS activity, on 6% of the organisation’s research budget is spent on it.
Instead of waiting to treat mental health conditions in adults, it can be argued that investing in youth services would have long-term benefits on the population and the NHS budget. Nearly half of adults struggling with poor mental health had established conditions by the time they were 15 years old.
It is unreasonable to expect the NHS to be solely responsible for the mental health of the nation. Westminster’s pockets are not bottomless. Normalising mental health in society and the media, the same way cancer and heart disease have been, will help remove the prejudice. Campaigns like Heads Together, which is run in conjunction with charities like Mind, YoungMinds, CALM, and Best Beginnings, can encourage people to access support earlier when less intervention may be required to be successful
The NHS is not letting down all mental health patients, but it is not unreasonable to say that reducing the amount of money some areas have to spend on treating mental health will have a detrimental effect. Meanwhile, we need to continue to support charities and organisations which promote the benefits of increased awareness and early intervention.