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Increase in mental health detentions shows grim reality of funding cuts

The National Health Action Party notes with dismay the CQC report on mental health care, which shows a 40% increase in detentions under the Mental Health Act in the decade up to 2015/16. The reasons given in the CQC report are deemed “complex” and essentially show that NHS mental health services are suffering from the same crisis as other parts of the health service.

The report mentions “changes in mental health service provision and bed management”. This phrase fails to fully reflect the cuts to available beds, from 34,000 in 2001 to 19,000 in 2015. Community NHS mental health services have also been reduced and centralised, making them less accessible. Thresholds for support have continued to increase, meaning fewer people now qualify for support. We hear repeatedly from GPs that patients are deemed “not suicidal enough” for crisis care. We are also aware of significant delays in admitting mentally unwell patients to hospital, for example in South London.

This could not come at a worse time, as we have seen worsening inequality for those with mental health conditions. The foreword to the Mental Health Five Year Forward View states that these inequalities must be reduced, but to do this mental health budgets must increase rather than being cut in order to achieve 'efficiency savings'. Figures from the King's Fund estimate that 40% of 58 mental health trusts in England saw their budgets cut in 2015-2016. This situation has been made worse by the government’s parallel cuts of local authority budgets, and we are concerned that the Sustainability and Transformation Plans will compound the situation with further budget cuts.

Mental Health spokesperson for the National Health Action Party, Dr Veronika Wagner said:

“We are sadly not surprised by the continued rise in detentions under the Mental Health Act in the context of severe government cuts to NHS mental health funding, staffing, and beds. We have heard stories of patients would have agreed to voluntary admission to a local mental health unit, but through shortage of beds have been forced into admission to a hospital out of area, far from their loved ones, and therefore detained under the Act.

Every patient detained under the Mental Health Act is a person who is significantly mentally unwell and not free to leave hospital if they so wish. We owe it to people living with mental illness to create and maintain dignified fully public NHS care, universal and comprehensive, free at the point of need for all.”

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The National Health Action (NHA) Party was founded in 2012 to oppose the growing marketisation of the NHS.

Dr Veronika Wagner is a mental health expert and NHA Party spokesperson.

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