Mental health expenditure gives cause for concern according to Health Committee research

14/02/2007

The proportion of funds invested in mental health services has fallen over the past six years according to research commissioned by the Parliament’s Health Committee.

Research by Dr Seán Boyle of the London School of Economics, which is published today, shows that while NHS expenditure per head of population has increased substantially since 1999, the proportion of total resources spent on mental health services has fallen.

View the research

The research was commissioned to examine how different health boards allocate resources for the provision of mental health services. It set out to identify:

  • historical trends in resource allocation for mental health;
  • comparisons between mental health allocation and other areas of health care;
  • the impact of any increases in spending;
  • where and by whom the money is being spent;
  • funds allocated for the implementation of the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) ( Scotland ) Act 2003.

Health Committee Convener, Roseanna Cunningham, said:

"There is a long-held perception that mental health care is something of a Cinderella Service within the NHS, which does not receive an appropriate level of funding.

"Dr Boyle’s figures show that whilst there has been an increase in the overall spend on mental health provision across Scotland , it is worrying that the share of overall expenditure in this field has dropped.

"The Committee is concerned that this may reflect a reduction in the priority given to mental health.

"The research also shows a decline in the number of beds made available for psychiatric patients across Scotland. It is not clear, however, how much the development in services such as Care in the Community compensates for this due to the lack of information on this type of community provision. The Committee has recommended that a framework is developed to measure this shift in care provision, both financially and in terms of available resources.”

The research will be used to inform scrutiny of future policies on mental health service provision across Scotland and to identify areas requiring further investigation.

Background

The report, Local Provision ofMental Health Care in Scotland is available from the Scottish Parliament website.

The Health Committee agreed on 20 June 2006 that its scrutiny of the 2007-08 Draft Scottish Executive Budget should focus on the proportion of these funds allocated to mental health.

Dr Boyle is a Senior Research Fellow at the London School of Economics’ Health and Social Care Centre. Since 1993 he has served as the public expenditure adviser to the House of Commons Health Select Committee.

Dr Boyle has written extensively on a range of policy issues concerning the finance and provision of healthcare in the UK: these include the economic evaluation of the use and allocation of resources, public-private partnerships, modelling elective and emergency care, and performance measurement.

All 15 area health boards in Scotland responded to a questionnaire on mental health service provision which sought to establish:

  1. sources of revenue
  2. patterns of expenditure on mental health
  3. how money is spent
  4. how effectively funds are spent
  5. the relationship between local patterns of expenditure and national policy initiatives
  6. how boards work in partnership with local authorities and the voluntary service
  7. what improvements have been made in mental health outcomes
  8. variations in the provision of services between health boards.
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