For years mental health has taken little priority in the budget and funding, a move of which has been rightly criticised and frowned upon. Years of underfunding have meant many people with mental health problems have struggled to gain access to quality care and support.
The gap between level of care in physical and mental health treatment has long been massive and it is nice to see the government making positive steps in addressing this. Over £20 billion has been committed to our NHS each year for the next five years, of which at least £2 billion will be allocated to mental health and making crucial improvements to services and the support people receive. The question is: “How will this money be spent?”
Chancellor Phillip Hammond highlighted the addition of £250 million to crisis services, including 24/7 support via NHS 111, having children and young people crisis teams across the country, comprehensive support in every major A&E, more specialist mental health ambulances and more community services such as crisis cafes. The chancellor also announced an expansion of specialised employment support, as well as £10 million of further support for veterans with mental health needs.
The focus on crisis is clear and while I think this is positive and very important, I believe greater focus should be placed on early intervention and prevention, not cure. While it is vital that people experiencing crisis have easy access to appropriate services and care, surely we need to strengthen core mental health services and aim to help prevent people reaching that crisis point in the first place. Countless people are even turned away because their condition is not considered serious enough; moving forward this needs to change and people should be treated much earlier!
The increase of funding is extremely encouraging, however mental health requires much more than extra money to meet its higher demands. With over 20,000 vacant posts identified in specialist NHS mental health services, maybe a deeper challenge in recruitment and retention of staff awaits. In order to meet this demand, significantly more staff are needed, not to mention better preventative measures to ensure less people are requiring NHS mental health services in the first place.
Many people, including myself, are very keen to see how and where funding will be distributed in the long term plan- not to mention how effective these strategies will be implemented. Here’s hoping it will be a big success and credit to the government for making positive steps in the right direction!
Thanks for reading,