Calls to act on mental health funding crisis

(Photo: Jesse Therrien)

Leading mental health charities are calling for urgent action to address what they describe as a looming funding crisis.

They say new proposals set out by Monitor (the sector regulator for health services in England) and NHS England show mental health services could be subject to cuts of 1.5% in 2015/16.

The call comes amid claims that at least eight people have died since March 2012 because of problems accessing beds in psychiatric units for patients in crisis.

An investigation by Community Care journal and BBC News says the deaths were all linked to bed pressures and included seven suicides and one homicide.

The Community Care report read: "We also identified a ninth case where a woman took her own life after being denied a bed at a crisis house, a residential facility used to offer a community-based alternative to hospital."

New figures obtained by Community Care from mental health trusts show that 468 beds have been closed over the past year, bringing the total closures to more than 2,100 since April 2011. Fresh data on bed demand reveals admission wards for acutely unwell adults have run at an average monthly occupancy level of 101% for the past two years. Several trusts have hit occupancy rates of over 120% some months, though the recommended level is 85%.

The consortium of mental health charities which include Rethink Mental Illness, Mind and the Royal College of Psychiatrists, are calling on the Government to use the forthcoming Autumn Statement to address what they describe as a funding crisis.

In a joint statement, the leaders of these organisations said: "This week the Deputy Prime Minister made a public call for an additional £1.5 billion for the NHS. We hope that such additional funding will be announced in the Autumn Statement, and we urge the government to clearly commit a considerable proportion of that to mental health services.

The funding crisis in mental health services has been recognised by all, and it must now be addressed urgently. This is the moment to turn rhetoric into reality."

Mental ill health is the single biggest cause of lost days in employment in this country. Just 1 in 4 of people affected by depression and anxiety are receiving support, and more than a third of people experiencing psychosis are missing out on treatment.