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NHS cuts mean mental health patients are being failed, warn experts


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Those suffering mental health problems are being failed as services in England and Wales face a "potent mix" of rising demand and cuts to the workforce, according to reports.

Professionals have deemed the system unsustainable due to a steep decline in the number of inpatient beds and staff, as well as a reduction in the amount of community health provision.

The number of acute inpatient beds for adults suffering from mental health conditions in England and Wales fell by 15% in the four years leading up to 2016. In addition, staff numbers decreased by 20% in the same period. However the number of people admitted and their time spent in hospital has not changed.

Community mental health service provision also fell - the number of those on community team caseloads has reduced by 7%, staffing levels by 4% and contacts by 6%.

The authors of the report have pointed out that 900,000 people with common mental health issues received psychological therapy through the National Health Service in 2015/16.

In response, NHS England has insisted that the report is ‘based on historic data’ which came before the Mental Health Taskforce investment and ignores the fact that community provision and the range of services have increased and improved since 2015.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists have warned that a reduction in community mental health services and inpatient beds means that those with the most serious mental health problems are being failed.

Sarah Hughes, Chief Executive of the Centre for Mental Health said ‘Mental health services have been under significant financial pressures in the last five years.

"While reductions in bed numbers continue a long-term shift from hospital to community care, any reductions in community services are a major cause for concern. It is simply not sustainable to keep cutting community services at the same time as reducing bed numbers."

Barbara Keeley MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Mental Health and Social Care, said that the findings were "deeply worrying" and has described the current Government’s pledge to make mental health and physical health equal priorities as nothing more than "hollow rhetoric".

"Under the Tories, mental health services have come under increasing pressure due to under-funding and staffing shortages. The Government should match Labour's pledge to invest more in mental health services and ring-fence mental health spending to ensure funding reaches the front line."

Lead image courtesy of Pete.

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