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Public mental health spending – too little?

Posted by
29 Oct 2014

My role as a legal recruitment consultant, specialising in placinglocums with local authorities in London, means that I work really closely witha number of solicitors specialising in adult and childcare. This specialism hasits own number of challenges, and I am fascinated by the work that theseprofessionals undertake and how they, and along with social workers, ensure thesafety of the most vulnerable in society.

It was because of this that I was interested to learn inOctober, themental health charity Mind's findings that local authorities spend just 1.36% oftheir public health budgets on mental health which they believe to be"unacceptably low".

The report included data from 82 out of 152 localauthorities in England and found that £76 million was spent on increasingphysical activity, £160 million on anti-smoking initiatives and £671 million onsexual health services compared to £40 million on mental health for the year of2014/15. This budget is used to prevent and treat mental health problems aswell as promoting the importance of good physical health to sufferers.

Mind highlighted that preventing mental health problems wasjust as important as physical health for vulnerable groups which includechildren, pregnant woman, those spending much time alone or with long-termhealth problems. The significance of this is highlighted by the Chief MedicalOfficer, Dame Sally Davies findings earlier this year, which found that mentalillness lost 70 million working days in 2013 at a cost to the economy of£70-100 billion in absence, benefits and loss of productivity. She also foundthat mental heath makes up 23% of the total burden of disease in the UK.

The Local Government's Association responded to suggest that the report doesn'trecognise much of the good work done by councils.

According to the Local Government Association's 'Money well spent' report,calculating the split of public health expenditure over the last decade hasbeen increasingly difficult, but it is believed that the budget had sustainedat 4% of the NHS budget. As responsibility for mental health spending was movedfrom Primary Care Trusts to local government last year, the cost of publichealth is added to national spending, rather than to local NHS budgets.

The challenge increases further as the government reduces local authoritybudgets each year and devolves the responsibility of spending to each council. Accordingto Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind:

"Local authorities need much clearer guidance and support on how best totackle mental health problems. We want the next Government to introduce anational strategy to ensure local authorities know what to do, and use theirbudgets to prevent mental health problems developing and reduce the number ofpeople becoming unwell.”

The current government are not ignoring the issue. 'PublicHealth England' now have a key role in pulling together examples of bestpractice to assist in the investment for public health. The Care Act cominginto affect next year, which includes the 'Better Care Fund', will address thisissue further and commit £3.8 billion worth of funding in 2015/16 to be spentlocally on health and care to improve outcome for patients, service users andcarers through pooled budget arrangements.

The Care Act is set to revolutionise adult social care and mental health, butonly time will tell as to whether or not this will have a positive impact onmental health nationally and locally.

What do you think? Does more need to be spent on mental health in the UK? Letus know your thoughts...

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