Mental health spending in England

Published: 1st Aug 2018

The NHS in England planned to spend £11.9 billion on mental health in 2017/18. That’s roughly one in every ten pounds spent by the Department of Health.

That’s up from the £11.4 billion spent in 2015/16—once inflation is accounted for—or an increase of 4%.

The largest part of this funding comes from clinical commissioning groups (CCGs)—groups of GPs, other doctors and nurses who buy health services for their local area based on need. The rest is spent on specialised services by NHS England—which are often services that there is less widespread demand for.

In 2016 the government published its plan for the next five years of mental health care, this highlighted the fact that although around a quarter of NHS care in England goes towards mental health, spending on mental health services in hospitals amounted to roughly half of this.

We don’t have earlier figures than this

It’s been claimed that we’re spending record amounts on mental health. That may well be the case—it’s certainly true over the last three years—but we don’t have any comparable figures for earlier than that.

We know that £10.1 billion was spent in 2014/15 and £10.8 billion in 2015/16. But there are several problems with these figures. They don’t account for inflation and the 2015/16 figures have been changed since to “take into account NHS England's planning guidance to clinical commissioning groups on consistent reporting of mental health spending”.

We’ve written more about this here.

Spending on mental health trusts

These trusts provide the majority of mental health services in the NHS, but they only received 6% of the increase in spending on mental health by clinical commissioning groups and NHS England in 2016/17.

Because figures aren’t publicly available it’s not possible to say where the rest of this money was spent, according to the Health Foundation think tank. It does say it’s likely that some was spent on talking therapies for adults with common mental health conditions.

In previous years trusts have seen reductions in their income. Between 40 and 50% of mental health trusts in England saw reductions in their budgets each year between 2012/13 and 2015/16.

This trend began to reverse in 2016/17 when over four in every five trusts saw in increases in their budgets, according to analysis by the King’s Fund.

The mental health investment standard

This was previously known as parity of esteem, the idea that there should be equality between physical and mental health services. It was introduced in 2016/17 and requires all clinical commissioning groups to increase spending on mental health in line with the total funding allocated to them.

85% of clinical commissioning groups are expected to meet this target in 2017/18 and 100% are expected to meet it in 2018/19.

How much is spent on children?

Around £660 million was planned to be spent on mental health services for children and young people by CCGs in 2017/18—that’s not including spending on learning disabilities or any other spending by NHS England directly on specialist services for children.

We don’t have earlier figures than this available.

Analysis by the Children’s Commissioner found that around 6% of local mental health budgets are spent on children, far below the proportion of the population they comprise.

What’s going to happen to mental health spending?

The government recently announced that it plans to increase spending on the NHS in England as a whole by an extra £20 billion over the next five years. That works out at spending increases of 3.4% on average each year.

But experts have said that “Increases of more like 4% a year would be needed to provide any improvement in services and to invest in priorities such as mental health, cancer and general practice.”

Analysis by the Health Foundation and Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has found that, if the NHS in England increased the proportion of people with mental health conditions it treats from around 40%—which is roughly what it treats at present—to 70% by 2033/34 then spending would need to more than double to around £27 billion.


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