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Chancellor outlines £1.25bn mental health package

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Chancellor George Osborne outlined how a £1.25bn mental health funding package will be spent over the next five years, as part of plans for the government’s next budget.

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Mr Osborne pledged £118m over the next four years to increase access to psychological therapies services to children and young people, as part of the £250m a year package announced by deputy prime minister Nick Clegg earlier this week.

Other health announcements in the budget were:

  • £20m invested over four years to establish four pilot “connected health cities” in the North as part of the foundation stage of the research initiative Health North; and
  • £10m to support air ambulances across the country.

Most of the mental health funding will be spent on creating access standards for child and adolescent mental health services, which the government said would help 110,000 more children get the treatment they need.

A Treasury spokeswoman confirmed that the sum would not be coming from within existing health budgets.

An investment of £80m earlier this year, ahead of the new mental health access targets coming into force next month, was criticised by providers after around half was allocated from existing budgets with the remainder coming from NHS England.

While the Mr Clegg’s announcement on Sunday stated the £1.25bn would all be spent on young people’s mental health, it has emerged that the amount also includes £75m to provide additional care for women experiencing mental health problems.

The figure will be spent over the next Parliament to help mothers with mental ill health during perinatal or antenatal stages of pregnancy.

George Osborne

George Osborne pledged £118m to increase access to psychological therapies services for children

The government also announced that from early 2016 around 40,000 unemployed people would be provided with online cognitive behavioural therapy.

Those claiming employment and support allowance and jobseeker’s allowance and people being supported by the Department for Work and Pensions’ Fit for Work occupational health scheme will be eligible for the service.

It is unclear at this stage how this initiative will be funded and distributed.

Ruth Thorlby, senior health policy fellow at The Nuffield Trust, said: “The investment announced today in children’s and maternal mental health services is much needed and long overdue.

“But we must remember that all parts of the health service are struggling to meet demand and maintain quality under the financial strain of the last five years.

“This budget does not give patients and NHS staff any certainty about wider funding plans up to 2020. Yet that is the timescale on which NHS England, rightly, thinks spending must be committed in order to drive improvement and maintain quality.”

From 2015-16 the government will also invest £20m over four years to establish four pilot “connected health cities” as part of Health North, an initiative to harness the north of England’s biomedical research expertise.

The project will launch pilot sites in Newcastle, Liverpool, Manchester and across Leeds and Sheffield that aim to promote innovation in researching the effectiveness of different treatments and pathways.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • What of the NHS generally and the position of the £2bn for 2015/16. It is not clear that the Conservatives are even going to ring fence health for the next five years should they get into office again.

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