Mental health budget increase: Will it help the North East mental health crisis?

PICTURE POSED BY MODEL A woman showing signs of depression.
A woman showing signs of depression.. PA Images

It has been announced that the NHS will be putting an extra £1billion a year into mental health services by 2020.

The pledge came after Jeremy Hunt explained that the government need to provide extra money in order for the NHS to cope with demands on services such as mental health.

A month on from the announcement, SR News look into how this money will impact the North East and how much of this money is really “new”.

The North East are currently dealing with a serious mental health crisis as a recent survey revealed that the North East have the highest percentage of people with mental health problems than anywhere else. This makes extra spending in services such as mental health a major priority for this region.

Janice Wilson, Development Worker at Sunderland Mind states how important this is: “As far as I am aware the new money from central government is targeted at young people, this is an area of need as many young people experience anxiety, depression… so funding is vital for this group.

“Funding for mental health services has reduced over the past few years. The impact for a small charity like ours has been huge, any money we receive seems to be targeted towards crisis services rather than preventative services.

“Sunderland is an area of high unemployment and deprivation; we have the highest suicide rate in the country so funding for services is vital.”

The independent Mental Health Taskforce, chaired by the Chief Executive of Mind Paul Farmer, produced a ‘Five Year Forward View’ in which they suggested investing £1bn a year in order to reach one million more people, and the NHS accepted.

The taskforce highlighted how one in four people will experience a mental health problem in their lifetime. This is significantly higher in the North East as a survey of more than 8,000 adults found that 34% in the North East had a mental health problem whereas in London the figure was a lot lower at 23%.

But how much of this ‘£1bn a year’ is actually new? Mental Health North East disagree that the budget will help as we spoke to Neil Kelly, the Chairman at Mental Health North East: “Whilst welcoming any additional funding for mental health services, we are highly sceptical of this declaration as it refers in many instances to money already committed so it is not in any way “new” spending.

“I think this is ‘smoke and mirrors’ on the part of the Chancellor and Prime Minister, who want to look as though they are responding to criticisms of the massive underfunding of mental health services in this country, particularly in the North East which has the highest levels of mental health difficulties and suicide in the UK.

“Do I think it will make a big difference? No: we’ll still see long waiting lists for treatment, services, and hospital beds and staff shortages.”

In response to this, Conservative candidate for St Michael’s Ward Robert Oliver said: “The importance of mental health has increased in recent years but the government can only fund it within the confines of the current financial situation.”

Do you think there is enough being done to improve mental health services in the North East? Tweet us at @SRNewsNow.

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