Investing in social care is essential to balance the NHS books by Paul Burstow

News that Simon Stevens originally asked the Treasury for £16bn goes some way to explaining why the NHS is under such strain. After the longest period of financial constraint in its history, with three quarters of NHS providers reporting deficits amounting to £2.3bn by the end of quarter three, balancing the books is looking tricky to say the least.

So the NHS is faced over the next 12 months with balancing the books while simultaneously transforming the way it does business. Yet, fundamental to that transformation are two things: mental health and social care.

Both have compelling claims for investment in their own right. But those cases become unanswerable when the need to manage demand for acute hospital services is factored in. Poor mental health is a great accelerant of physical healthcare costs, as much as a 50% increase, according to the mental health taskforce. Yet, despite the cases for investment made in Future in mind and the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health, the word is not to expect the cash until 2017 at the earliest.

There are two figures that matter when it comes to mental health: the first, announced in the March 2015 budget, £1.25bn building over five years to deliver the ambitions of Future in mind; the second, an extra £1bn per year by 2020 to deliver the recommendations of the mental health taskforce, as the prime minister recently announced. The trouble is tracking down where the money is and when it will arrive.

Full story in The Guardian 24 March 2016