Hammond’s £2bn mental health budget pledge is a con

Philip Hammond and the NHS logo
Steve Topple

It was widely reported on Monday 29 October, that Philip Hammond will pledge £2bn for mental health services as part of his Autumn Budget. But as is often the case with the Tories – it was more smoke and mirrors. Because the money isn’t actually new.

New money or old money?

As ITV News reported, this is part of the government’s drive for “parity of care” in the NHS between physical and mental health. It reported:

The extra cash will help pay for the provision of “comprehensive” mental health support in every major NHS A&E department, ensuring anyone experiencing a mental health crisis can get rapid specialist help.

Officials say it will be backed up with more mental health ambulances and the establishment of dedicated mental health teams in schools, linking them to other support services.

But there was a catch. Because while ITV News said the £2bn was “extra cash”, it revealed the truth later on in the report. It said:

The additional funding forms part of the extra £20 billion-a-year by 2023 for the NHS in England which Theresa May announced in June.

So, far from being new cash, it looks like the £2bn is actually nothing new.

Twitter says…

Hammond’s dodgy dealings didn’t impress people on Twitter:

The reality for mental health

But the government still has a long way to go to repair the damage it has already done to mental health services. Data from the Royal College of Psychiatrists has shown that, after taking inflation into account, mental health spending was lower in 2016-17 than it was five years previously. In 2017, there were £4.5m worth of cuts to mental health spending in England. And in July 2018, figures showed an almost 30% drop in the number of mental health beds available since 2009.

Meanwhile, people are not getting the support they need. In February, reports said patients with a serious mental illness were having to wait between a year and two years for treatment in some areas. And thousands of people across England were having to wait six months to see a specialist.

More smoke and mirrors from the Tories? It looks like it.

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Featured image via the Foreign and Commonwealth Office – Flickr and F – Wikimedia

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Steve Topple