Mental health hits the headlines again, with a coalition of mental health charities including Mind revealing this week that that 1 in 6 people on NHS waiting lists for psychological therapies have attempted suicide, 4 in 10 have self harmed, and two thirds say their condition has deteriorated. Where IAPT services have been properly developed – as in Hampshire where we partner Southern Health NHS Trust in providing italk – they are transforming peoples’ lives. But the availability of IAPT and other psychological therapies varies widely, and for those parts of the country which have never invested in IAPT or are letting IAPT services fail, the report should be a wake up call.
Mental health is the easy target for funding cuts. Despite all the protestations about parity of esteem it continues to lose out to physical health in NHS spending, and even more in social care under the control of local authorities. In Southampton we are in the bizarre position of the current day services review, intended to take £1.2 million out of a budget of £3.8 million, having very little impact on mental health, where services were the first to be cut when austerity hit in 2010/11, so that hardly anyone with a mental health issue has received a day service or its modern equivalent for the last 3 years. Small wonder that acute services are under such pressure. Meanwhile Portsmouth is beginning consultation over a further 17.5% savings needed in addition to massive cuts already made over the last 3 years, and is warning of “tough choices” needing to be made. The longest recession in recent times may be ending for some, but it drags miserably on for many others.