Pressure on daily core mental health services provided by the NHS is rapidly rising as trusts struggle to cope with lack of funding and increased demand, warns a coalition of organisations* including NHS providers.
In a letter published by The Guardian, they highlight findings from NHS Providers latest State of the NHS Provider Sector report, which show that only around 10 percent of trusts are managing demand for mental health services and planning for unmet need.
Over 70 percent of mental health leaders said that they expect demand for services overall to grow, while for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and mental health crisis care the figure was higher still at 90 percent.
Also, only around one in three is confident that they have enough staff, while there is widespread doubt that the commitment to increase investment in mental health will result in enough money reaching the front line.
“Too often trust leaders report that any extra funding is just used to fill existing gaps or to manage current demand, not improve service quality or access,” noted Saffron Cordery, director of policy and strategy at NHS Providers.
The concerns “point to a growing gap between the government’s welcome ambition for the care of people with mental health needs and the reality of services they are receiving on the front line,” she added, also highlighting that “in some cases, core mental health service provision by mental health trusts is actually getting worse”.
In the letter, the campaigners call for a “clear and unequivocal” response to the growing crisis.
“First - we need to develop ways to ensure that money committed for mental health gets through to the NHS front line and is spent effectively on quality services. Second - we must be realistic in the way we respond to growing demand, recognising that societal pressures are increasing the need for mental health services. And third - worries over staffing gaps revealed in the report once again underline the urgency for a proper comprehensive workforce strategy, with specific proposals that will improve the experience of people with mental health problems so they receive the care that they need and deserve,” they argue.
“The government has pledged to put mental health on a par with physical health but this needs to be reflected in investment and the continued progress of the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health,” said Sean Duggan, chief executive of the Mental Health Network, which is part of the NHS Confederation.
"Getting mental health services right will relieve pressure on other parts of the health system and we would urge the government to deliver on its promises and ensure mental health gets the equal status it deserves.”
*NHS Providers, Age UK, Centre for Mental Health, Mental Health Network, Mind, Rethink Mental Illness, Royal College of Psychiatrists, The Patients Association, Young Minds