Ministers have been accused of breaking their promises on mental health after £800m earmarked to improve services was diverted to shore up hospitals’ finances.
A leading mental health charity and the Labour party said redirecting the money would hit patient care and hinder the drive, backed by Theresa May, to improve care for people with serious mental health problems.
“It would be incredibly worrying if mental health investment was being sacrificed so that [NHS bodies] can balance their books,” said Mind chief executive Paul Farmer, who chaired the NHS taskforce on mental health that last year recommended sweeping changes, including to funding.
Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England, last year said the money was “funding that would have been available from CCGs for mental health services, community health services, primary care and other things”. It was being held as a “contingency reserve” in case hospital trusts recorded huge deficits this year comparable to the overspend of £2.45bn they made in 2015-16, he said.
In his letter, Baumann confirms that NHS England now intends to use the “full amount” of the contingency fund to offset overspends by NHS acute hospital trusts in 2016-17.
“The aggregate effect of this will be to increase the surplus across the whole of the commissioning [CCG] sector by around £800m, which will help to offset the provider deficit position and help us to secure a balanced position for the NHS overall,” he writes.
Full story in The Guardian, 16 March 2017