Norfolk and Suffolk mental health cuts ‘devastating’

Norfolk and Suffolk’s NHS mental health services merged in 2012 and must save about £40m over four years

Funding cuts in Norfolk and Suffolk show the government is failing to put mental and physical health on an equal footing, campaigners say.

Mainstream hospitals in the two counties have seen budgets rise by 15% since 2010, while mental health service funding has fallen by 3%.

The Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk said the cuts were “devastating”.

The clinical commissioners said the figures did not show the full picture.

The figures were presented to a Care Quality Commission inspection by the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT), the main mental health service provider in the two counties.

Graph showing relative funding investments in Norfolk and SuffolkAll the healthcare providers, except NSFT, have seen an increase in funding since 2010, yet mental heath service budgets have been cut

The campaign group spokesman said: “Cuts of this scale are quite unacceptable and are having a devastating impact on people who rely on mental health services.

“Despite this, another £44m of cuts are planned over the next five years. Nothing stigmatises those who rely on mental health services more than the increasing disparity between mental and physical health funding.”

Michael Scott, chief executive of NSFT, said: “We’ve seen policymakers talk about parity of esteem, that’s a very welcome development, and it’s being followed by a healthy debate about mental health and funding.

“We all know these are tough times for the public sector but we believe that, at a national level, there needs to be greater focus on fairer funding for mental health.”

The NSFT provides services for mental health in Norfolk and Suffolk and many patients are treated at Hellesdon Hospital

The figures looked at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital (N&N), the James Paget Hospital and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (all in Norfolk), Ipswich Hospital and West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds (in Suffolk) and the NSFT.

The local clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) said: “The comparison made between acute (or mainstream hospitals) and mental health funding in Norfolk is not accurate and complete.

“The way health services are funded Norfolk are in line with the rest of England.

“Acute hospital care is paid for in a very different way to mental health, community and primary care.

“Acute hospital care must be paid for patient by patient. As the number of patients treated in hospital increases, so does the funding.

“Most other NHS services, including mental health services, are funded via block contracts which cover all activity. However…the four Norfolk CCGs have recognised the pressures on mental health care and have increased funding in 2014-15 as appropriate.”

A Department of Health spokesman said: “We have gone further than ever before to put mental health on a par with physical health and have instructed the NHS to make sure every community does the same.”