Funding mental health at local level: unpicking the variation

A new survey has found that the government’s commitment to parity of esteem between mental and physical health services is being undermined by a failure to ensure funding increases reach the frontline.

NHS Providers and the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA) surveyed finance directors in mental health trusts and chief finance officers in clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) to understand how the parity of esteem commitment is being implemented locally. More than half (55%) of England’s mental health trusts responded, along with 10% of CCGs.
The report, Funding mental health at local level: unpicking the variation reveals that:

The report calls for greater clarity and transparency from the government and leaders of the arms-length bodies in the following key areas:

  1. How much is being made available for mental health services, and in which areas
  2. Linked to this, greater transparency across the system about how much is actually being spent on mental health services
  3. Explicit alignment about what it means to meet parity of esteem commitments – this is because at both national and local level organisations are interpreting the requirements in different ways, which is leading to a patchwork of investment and services for patients
  4. Better enforcement and support for local organisations – this is needed to help counter the significant local variation highlighted in this survey about how the rules are being interpreted and responded to. Where organisations are struggling to invest in line with the guidance, support should be required to ensure that challenges are addressed.
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