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Last Updated: Monday, 10 November, 2003, 16:43 GMT
Mental health 'needs more money'
The report calls for extra money
Government plans to improve mental health services will fail unless more money is made available, a report says.

Ministers published a National Service Framework for Mental Health four years ago pledging to modernise care.

But a report by the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health says many trusts are struggling to maintain services because of a lack of money.

The Department of Health has dismissed the claims saying millions of extra pounds have been spent in this area.

Extra money

According to the report, spending on mental health services will increase by 6.3% this year.

However, after inflation and pay increases have been taken into account this becomes just 1.6%.

We question both the methodology and the accuracy of the report
Spokeswoman, Department of Health
This compares to a 5% increase after pay and inflation for the rest of the NHS.

The report said the lack of extra money is putting hospitals under pressure, with many struggling with longstanding debts, serious staff shortages and rising prescription bills.

More than half of local implementation teams, which coordinate improvements to local services, said financial pressures were delaying progress towards meeting key government targets.

"The NHS has seen unprecedented levels of extra spending in recent years," said Matt Muijen, chief executive of the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health.

"Mental health services, however, are falling further behind as their share dwindles year by year."

He said the lack of money is putting plans to modernise the sector at risk.

"The national service framework set out a bold vision for mental health care. But it was predicated on extra resources being available to invest in new services and to avoid the mistakes of the past.

"The reality on the ground is that new services are being introduced without sufficient resources. Some are draining existing services of staff and money; others are too thinly resourced to meet their aims and ambitions."

"We face a simple choice: either mental health gets parity with the rest of the NHS or the government's plans for better services will have to be scaled back significantly."

Figures queried

The Department of Health questioned the figures.

"We question both the methodology and the accuracy of the report," said a spokeswoman.

"The department has more robust comprehensive and long-term data which shows a 6.3% funding increase after inflation."

She added: "There has been a significant growth in spending on community services and new teams dedicated to helping those patients at crisis points."

But Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of the mental health charity SANE, said: "Funding for mental health services is now at a standstill, with new initiatives depleting core teams and services.

"When a person needs hospital care, wards are overflowing, staff overworked, conditions squalid and the traffic in doctors, nurses and patients in gridlock or chaos."

She added: "We are seeing no improvements in the fundamentals of health care and we believe that the health services are putting lives at risk by failing to provide these."

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