Doctor’s concerns over mental health funding

WITH World Mental Health Day fast approaching, an expert in the field has written to the Herald & Gazette to share his thoughts on a ‘funding crisis’ that is putting patients’ lives at risk.

He said:

World Mental Health Day is observed on October 10 every year, with the overall aim of raising awareness of mental health issues around the world.

Perhaps the greatest issue that needs awareness raised is the current funding crisis that is putting not only the founding values of the NHS at risk but the lives of people experiencing mental health problems.

A recent survey of family doctors has found that the funding crisis for mental health services is so severe that one in five had seen a patient come to harm because they could not get the specialist help they needed. GPs said that some patients had committed suicide because of a lack of available community mental health services.

The funding of mental health services in the UK has always been underfunded in comparison to other health issues. Mental illness accounts for over a fifth of NHS disease burden but gets only a tenth of funds. However, under the current coalition government, the austerity agenda has ripped through the heart of mental health services putting people’s lives at risk.

More than eight in 10 GPs now believe that their local mental health teams cannot cope with caseloads, and nearly half said that the situation in their area had got even worse in the past 12 months. We heard last year of Sussex hospitals turning suicidal people away in their hour of need - because there was no space left to treat them.

We know that health problems have a huge cost, not only to the patients themselves but to their families and to the broader economy. Mental health costs West Sussex employers almost £400 million. And so it is perhaps not surprising that during this funding crisis, local people question the redevelopment of surplus land on the Southlands Hospital into properties.

As long as we have this funding crisis, and patients have to be moved around the country for the right care, or are being turned away, and as long as patients, families and employers are so affected in Sussex, can we really say that our local hospitals have ‘surplus land’?

If there is one clear message on World Mental health day this year it is that it is time for our politicians to stop putting people’s lives at risk.”

This year’s World Mental Health Day theme is ‘living with schizophrenia’.

To find out more contact your local organisation:

Coastal West Sussex Mind (Worthing and wider area): 01903 277000

United Response (Littlehampton and Bognor Regis and wider area): 0800 0884 377

Richmond Fellowship (Chichester and wider area): 01243 780240

Sussex Oakleaf (Haywards Heath and wider area): 01444 459517

Corner House (Shoreham and wider area): 01273 871575