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DH to miss children's mental health investment target for 2015-16

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NHS England expects commissioners to spend at least £150m more in cash terms on mental health services this financial year. However, the Department of Health has admitted it will fall £107m short of its promised £250m target for investment this year in children’s mental health services.  

  • NHS England expects £150m increase in mental health spending
  • DH to provide £107m less than planned in 2015-16
  • Government still committed to extra £1.25bn by 2020
  • Mental Health Network calls for more transparency over funding allocations

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In the March budget, chancellor George Osborne earmarked an extra £1.25bn for improvements to mental health services, predominately those for children and young people, up to 2020.

This money was intended to be split equally into £250m a year and was included in the DH’s annual budget for each year to 2020-21. However, the department has confirmed only £143m will be spent by April next year.

A DH spokeswoman said the government was committed to spending the full £1.25bn over the next five years, LGC’s sister title Health Service Journal reports.

In terms of overall spending, NHS England told HSJ that clinical commissioning groups plan to spend an extra £80m on mental health services in 2015-16, taking total expenditure to £8.7bn. CCG plans for 2014-15 estimated total spending on mental health at £8.62bn.

NHS England also said it planned to spend £1.8bn on specialised mental health services in 2015-16, £70m more than in 2014-15, or a 4 per cent cash terms increase.

The national commissioning body has highlighted that these figures do not capture the totality of NHS mental health expenditure. It has said that in 2014-15 there was £1.9bn of mental health spending – in areas like primary care – over and above that set out in commissioners’ plans. It has not yet carried out analysis of CCG contracts for 2015-16 so was unable to say how this figure would change.

Mental Health Network chief executive Stephen Dalton told HSJ there was a lack of transparency over how mental health funding was being allocated.

Stephen Dalton

There is not enough transparency over how mental health funding is allocated, Stephen Dalton said

He said: “I don’t know what [the DH has] done with the £107m. In-year this is a broken promise for reasons that are difficult to understand as all providers agree there is chronic underfunding in children’s mental health services.

“One can only conclude that the money has been siphoned off to spend in some other area that isn’t mental health. I’ll be very happy if the total £1.25bn is spent over the Parliament but they are going to have to play catch up now.”

On CCG plans, Mr Dalton said: “What we hear from the frontline is a very mixed picture and I would be amazed if there had been a significant real terms funding increase in line with the planning guidance.

“There is a lack of transparency when it comes to CCG plans and we are in a fog as to whether CCGs have invested or not, but NHS England does know and they need to tell us.”

A DH spokeswoman said: “The £143m this year is part of a targeted programme to make sure investment is linked to real change. The remaining money is for health but decisions on exactly what have not yet been made.

“Levels of spend in future years will be subject to the comprehensive spending review, but we remain committed to the £1.25bn over five years.”

Investments included within the £143m include £75m for CCGs on improving local services, which will be allocated in October based on revised plans from CCGs.

Other spending includes £15m on perinatal mental health services and £24m on expanding the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies programme for children.

The remaining £29m will be spent by NHS England and Health Education England on inpatient services, improving data and workforce development.

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