BBC News: Mental health budgets ‘still being cut despite pledge’

Sophie Hutchinson, Health Correspondent of BBC News, writes about the mental health feature on yesterday’s national BBC television news:

Mental health trusts in England are still having their budgets cut, despite government assurances they would be funded on a par with physical healthcare, figures suggest.

Analysis by the King’s Fund think tank, seen by the BBC, suggests 40% of the 58 trusts saw budgets cut in 2015-16.

It found six of them had seen budgets cut three years in a row.

Neil Jewell, who had schizophrenia, died after failings in his care, accepted by the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) looking after him.

Special measures

Its chief executive says improvements in care have since been made, but he warned mental health care missed out on funding in comparison to acute hospitals.

NSFT is one of the six trusts identified as having had its budget cut three years in a row.

Inspectors have just recommended the trust be taken out of special measures after almost two years, despite saying safety there is still inadequate, and raising concerns about high death rates.

King’s Fund chief executive Chris Ham said: “Cuts in mental health services are just as risky as cuts in acute hospital services. We are talking about people in crisis who need expert support in a timely way.

‘Wake up’

“If they don’t get it, it’s bad for them and their families – and for the communities in which they live.

“The crisis in mental health services is real and serious. We all need to wake up to that reality.”

He added: “Parity of esteem is a laudable ambition that hasn’t been followed through in practice.”

Neil Jewell had a heart attack in January 2014 while being reintroduced to his medication.

He had not had enough medication over the Christmas holiday period. When he was seen by a mental health team in early January, he was not offered a safe hospital bed and was driven 75 miles while he was having a psychotic episode, under restraints, to a different unit, where he died.

His sister, Christine Welfare, says there was a catalogue of failings in local mental health services both in the community and in hospital.

“It was a complete nightmare – it should never have happened. And then you start getting angry.

“These are people’s lives. Anybody in society, no matter who you are, can suffer at various times in their lives with mental health issues and it’s very important that people sit up and take notice.”

Staff and our campaign told NSFT in 2013 it didn’t have enough beds. NSFT continued to close beds.

The Chair of NSFT, Gary Page, denied there was a mental health crisis: it was a ‘so-called crisis’.

Commissioners promised councillors in January 2014 that sending people in crisis out of area would end by May 2014. Instead, the bed crisis became even worse.

When we said there weren’t enough beds, then Health Minister Norman Lamb told the BBC we only believed there weren’t enough beds because we weren’t ‘progressive’.

The Care Quality Commission told NSFT eighteen months ago that it didn’t have enough beds. NSFT continued to close beds.

This week’s CQC report told NSFT that it doesn’t have enough beds.

NSFT’s Board has commissioned expensive consultants, some of whom formerly worked for a gambling company, to tell it whether it has enough beds or not. Well, at least they’re used to finding new and innovative ways to help themselves to the public’s money. We don’t need a computer model approximation of bed demand: there are years of real-world data.

Are unexpected deaths going to be incorporated into the new computer model? Is NSFT’s Board going to ‘choose’ an ‘acceptable’ number of deaths?  Are commissioners going to set maximum budgets to save a human life?

Unexpected deaths at NSFT have more than doubled.

Thank you to Neil Jewell’s family for speaking out about Neil’s death for the good of others.

Please join us at NSFT’s AGM at IP-City Centre, 1 Bath Street, Ipswich, IP2 8SD on Thursday 20 October at 2 p.m.and help us show the NSFT Board that its repeated attempts to whitewash over the ever-increasing number of unexpected deaths are unacceptable.

Click on the image below to read the article in full on the BBC News website:


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