A new ‘minimum investment standard’ for child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) should be introduced by NHS England to ensure local commissioners do not spend funding for the services elsewhere, the BMA has urged.
In a report published today, the BMA said the measure was needed to ensure CCGs fully meet the commitment in the NHS long-term plan to increase funding for children’s mental health services.
An existing ‘mental health investment standard’ – which requires CCGs to increase their total mental health spend in line with overall budget increases – has had success, said the BMA report.
Replicating this standard for CAMHS – which is under ‘significant pressure’ – would ‘help to ensure that the promised uplift in funding’ is spent ‘directly’ on these services, it said.
The report comes in the wake of findings from a Pulse investigation, which revealed the increasing difficulties GPs are facing in getting their child referrals accepted by NHS mental health trusts in England, unless their patients are severely mentally unwell.
The BMA report also called for adequate funding to be made available to allow CCGs to double mental health spending over the period of the NHS long-term plan.
It said at least 11% of the total health budget should be invested in primary care – compared with the current 8.1% – allowing more mental health workers to be based in GP practices.
The report made a series of recommendations on how to achieve parity of resources, access and outcome for mental health services in England, and was published alongside the findings from a BMA survey of over 1,000 mental health care professionals.
The survey found ‘desperate shortages’ of staff across all areas of mental health services, which were leaving staff at ‘breaking point’ and patients failing to get the care they need.
The BMA said the findings showed many of the existing commitments set out for mental health services are not on track to be met, raising ‘significant questions’ about the Government’s ability to deliver on the promises made in the NHS long-term plan.
BMA GP Committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘As today’s report shows, we must start seeing mental and physical health as equal, and the same level of resources made available to mental health services, both within GP surgeries and throughout the wider community.
‘Without this, GPs are left feeling helpless and frustrated, but those who are most vulnerable are also left feeling unsafe and unsupported, and that has to change.’