Local authorities 'spend nothing' on mental healthcare

Mental healthcare is being increasingly sidelined, with some local authorities spending nothing on mental health services.

Other councils spent less than 1% of their public health budget on preventing mental health problems and the figure is shrinking year on year, according to Mind.

The charity used the Freedom of Information Act to analyse figures from councils on how much they spend on promoting and preventing the physical and mental wellbeing of all residents.

The figures showed that 13 local authorities spent nothing at all on preventing mental health problems in 2015/16. Overall, the proportion of the public health budget spent on mental health stood at 0.9%, down from 1.4% in 2013/14.

The charity estimates that poor mental health costs at least £105 billion a year with one in four people likely to suffer from a mental health problem each year.

The investigation also showed that some regions do not plan to spend any money on preventing mental ill health in the forthcoming year.

Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, said: "Our research shows that the current spend on public mental health initiatives is negligible. This can't continue.

"Prevention is always better than cure and ignoring the problem simply doesn't make sense.

"One in four people will experience a mental health problem every year, yet so much of this could be prevented by targeted programmes aimed at groups we know to be at risk, such as pregnant women, people who are isolated, people from black and minority ethnic and rural communities, or those living with a long term physical health problem.

Izzi Seccombe, chairwoman of the Local Government Association's community well-being board, said: "Councils have budgeted to spend £46 million on public mental health in 2016/17. This is despite having funding cut by central government by more than £330 million over the next four years - a reduction of 9.7%.

"Councils, who only took over responsibility for public health just over three years ago, cannot be expected to reverse decades of under investment in mental health spending by successive governments overnight."

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "We are determined that the increase in NHS funding reaches frontline services. That's why we have committed commissioners to increase their spending on local mental health services, at least in line with the growth of their overall funding."