“The Prime Minister just told us that there are record levels of spending going into our mental health services… why is it then than 57% of CCGs in our country are reducing their proportion of spend in mental health?”
Luciana Berger MP, 26 October 2016
"The fact that I set out that we are spending record levels in the NHS on mental health is absolutely right”.
Theresa May, 26 October 2016
We don’t know for certain whether the amount of money being spent on mental health services in the NHS is at ‘record levels’. There’s no definitive source on it. The government used to publish statistics on changes in mental health funding, but it hasn’t since 2013.
The idea that we are aiming to spend ‘record’ amounts on mental health services is plausible. Five years ago the government was spending half the £11.7 billion that’s planned for 2016/17.
But as we said last week, there are concerns about whether all this money is in fact reaching the front line. Ms Berger’s analysis of Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) spending reflects this.
For the past three years, Ms Berger has been submitting Freedom of Information requests to ask Clinical Comissioning Groups (CCGs) what percentage of their budgets they spend on mental health services, and whether they plan to spend more or less in the coming year.
128 out of the 211 CCGs in England have responded to the latest request so far. 73 of them (57%) plan to spend less of their total funding on mental health this year compared to 2015/16.
Overall, the proportion of spending across these CCGs on mental health is just under 10%, and that’s hardly changed in the last year.
This still leaves things we don’t know. In particular, we don’t know if the CCGs that didn’t respond have similar spending patterns to those that did. Ms Berger told us that in her experience, CCGs who planned to spend less on mental health services tend to be slower to respond to these FOI requests. If we had complete data on other CCGs, we might see a higher proportion planning to reduce their spend on mental health (assuming the pattern continued).
There were big variations in how different CCGs planned to change their mental health budget. One CCG planned to increase the share of their budget on mental health by 22%, the biggest increase, whilst another planned to cut it by 15%, the biggest decrease.
Changes in the share of the budget will tell you about the relative priority that a CCG puts on mental health services. But it’s different from whether the total amount they’re spending is rising or falling. If you take inflation into account, then overall these organisations are spending less on mental health than they were last year.
This article was corrected on 26 October 2016 at 8.00pm. It originally stated that CCGs provide about 80% of frontline mental health services. This is incorrect as it confuses CCGs with mental health trusts. Mental health trusts provide about 80% of all mental health care, according to the Kings Fund. Other typographical errors were also corrected.