Mental health spending varies widely across England

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There is nearly a two-fold difference in mental health spending across England, an analysis suggests.

Mental health charity Mind looked at investment across 42 NHS regions.

It found that Surrey Heartlands spent the least – £124 per person last year – compared with South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw, which spent more than £220.

The charity said the differences were huge and would affect the quality of care but, despite the variation, spending was still rising everywhere.

The findings have been released to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week.

Mental health spending has been made a priority in recent years.

In 2016, extra funding was announced and this was added to last year when the government announced its 10-year plan for the NHS.

The analysis by Mind showed all areas were increasing their mental health budgets in line with the overall increase in spending – part of a requirement set by the senior leadership in the NHS.

But that masked the big variations that still existed, according to the projected spending levels in 2018-19.

The biggest spenders (per person, per year)

  1. South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw £220.63
  2. Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly £207.97
  3. North Central London £205.11

The lowest spenders (per person, per year)

  1. Surrey Heartlands £124.48
  2. Shropshire and Telford and Wrekin £134.77
  3. Gloucestershire £137.00

Is some variation to be expected?

Certainly some of the differences will be linked to the variation in overall health budgets.

More deprived areas with greater level of illness get more money.

So that means while there is close to a two-fold difference in spending in cash terms, the proportion of the regional budget going on mental health is closer.

For example, Surrey Heartlands set aside 10% of its budget to mental health, compared with more than 16% in South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw.

Geoff Heyes, of Mind, said while there was some “positive change” with budgets increasing, the “long-term historic postcode lottery” was still a concern.

“The treatment you get shouldn’t depend on where you live.

“The NHS and government have made it clear that mental health is a priority. Some local variation is to be expected but the scale of the difference is huge and we know that the need outstrips resource even in the areas that are performing well.”

He said as the extra money started to become available – between now and 2023 mental health is in line to get £2.3bn of the extra £20bn going on the NHS – local areas needed to address funding levels.

A spokeswoman for NHS England said spending has, and would, continue to increase.

She said in the next five years an extra 700,000 people would get care and support.

“Funding for mental health services will grow faster than the overall NHS budget,” she added.

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