MENTAL health charities united yesterday to raise the alarm on a scandalous lack of care for vulnerable patients who are the hidden victims of NHS England’s cuts firestorm.
Members of the mental health policy group joined forces to launch a manifesto designed to put pressure on political parties gearing up for next year’s general election.
Among the manifesto’s demands are a maximum waiting time for treatment, a focus on smoking among people with mental health issues, more support for new mothers, outreach work for people out of work and real-terms increases in funding.
NHS bosses implementing a £20 billion cuts programme have repeatedly targeted psychiatric services, which account for 23 per cent of illnesses but just 13 per cent of total budgets.
And Rethink Mental Illness chief executive Mark Winstanley said: “Mental health must be a top priority for any new administration in 2015.
“It’s a scandal that people with mental illness still have no legal right to treatment and there are no maximum waiting times
“People are waiting months, even years for the most basic care and many are getting no support at all.”
Figures released yesterday by the Health and Social Care Information Centre showed that over 1 million people in England needed help between April and May.
But mental health budgets were slashed by 2.3 per cent between 2011-12 and 2013-14 as demand on overstretched community teams mushroomed by 16 per cent over the same period.
That’s left thousands of people without care and fuelled a bed shortage with some seriously ill patients being advised they will be safer at home or being sent to hospital wards miles from their families.
Labour shadow public health minister Luciana Berger said Tory Prime Minister David Cameron had “well and truly broken” promises to focus on mental health.
“Funding has been squeezed, the number of specialist doctors and nurses has dropped and more and more vulnerable people are not getting the help that they need,” she said.
Lib Dem Care and Support Minister Norman Lamb skated over his government’s cuts to claim that he was “determined to improve” the situation.
He added that NHS England had been told to introduce access and waiting time standards for the sector next year.