The spending gap for NHS mental health providers and NHS acute hospitals widened slightly last year, a new report from The King’s Fund says.
Analysis of the report found that 84% of mental health trusts received an increase in funding in 2017, significantly higher than in previous years.
Funding for specialist hospitals has seen a continual growth in a quick manner because national leaders have prioritised reducing financial deficits and improving overall performance in A&E.
The growing spending gap
As a result, the income for mental health trusts saw a marginal rise of less than 2.5% in 2016/17, which is comparatively lower than the 6% for acute and specialist trusts, continuing a trend of a growing spending gap between mental health and acute trusts.
Since 2012/13, funding for mental health trusts has increased by only 5.6%. This is minimal compared to the 16.8% increase for acute hospitals.
Pressures on mental health care
The substantial squeeze on funding for NHS mental health providers, combined with the lack of available staff, has put immense pressure on the workforce and has resulted in mental trusts struggling to staff services safely.
Since 2009, the number of mental health nurses has fallen by 13%, and one in ten posts is currently vacant in specialist mental health services.
Helen Gilburt, lead author and fellow in health policy at The King’s Fund, said: “The NHS is in the very difficult position of trying to deliver parity of esteem at the same time as it is under huge pressure to reduce deficits and improve performance in acute hospitals.”
She added: “Unless funding grows more quickly, mental health providers may end up implementing improvements to some services at the expense of others.
“Despite the commitment of national leaders, the funding gap between mental health and acute NHS services is continuing to widen, while growing staff shortages are affecting the quality and safety of care.”