Yesterday George Osborne delivered the government’s spending review. This is an important update about what the government will spend money on in the next few years, and often has big implications for people with health issues of any kind, and people who use a whole range of public services.
In the run up to the review, Rethink Mental Illness campaigners have been calling on the government to increase funding for mental health services in line with the money spent on physical health conditions. Over 3,000 people from across the country joined the campaign, putting real pressure on MPs and local NHS commissioners.
Since 2010, overall funding for mental health treatment has been cut by about 8% (around £600 million). Both the government and the other political parties have since recognised that mental and physical health are equally important, and have committed to equal treatment in investment for mental health (we often call this ‘parity of esteem’).
Before the spending review, there had been some steps in the right direction. NHS England and the government have both called for local commissioners to increase the money they put into mental health services. Set against the 8% cut however, such increases would be small.
“The government is putting £600 million back into mental health”
Yesterday, there was big news. The government announced that it is putting £600 million back into the system, taking funding for mental health services back to where it was five years ago. The money will be spent in some specific areas: increasing access to talking therapies, mental health services for pregnant women and new mums, and towards crisis care.
This is good news, and certainly makes the point that mental health is still squarely on the political agenda. We have politicians from all parties to thank for this, as well as some of our charity partners. Together we have worked hard to influence government policy. Most of all we want to thank the thousands of people who have joined our campaigns, signed petitions, and shared our posts on social media – you have kept the pressure up and shown decision-makers that mental health matters.
“There is still more work to do”
But there is still more work to do. The £600 million simply replaces the amount that was taken out of mental health funding in previous cuts. It will not bring spending to anywhere near being on an equal footing with NHS spending on purely physical health issues.
Our message to government is that this is a welcome start to improving NHS services for mental health, but there is still a very long way to go. Much more investment is needed to match the Prime Minister’s commitment to equal treatment for mental health. We will be working with our supporters to put pressure on MPs and local commissioners, but we will also strive to work with government to help them make the difference they have committed to.