Photo: MIND.

A landmark report has warned that benefit changes have resulted in a “substantial care deficit resulting from the impact of growing social and economic hardship”, whilst also warning that frontline mental health services are experiencing sustained pressure due to cruel Government policies.

The report from NHS Providers examines the impact of welfare reform on a range of services, including NHS mental health care and homelessness prevention services.

In particular, the report identifies “widespread concerns about benefits cuts and the impact of universal credit. It also suggests that loneliness, homelessness and financial hardship are adding to pressures on NHS mental health services”.

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It warns that “demand for services is outstripping supply”, while concluding that planned funding increases fall “far short of the amount needed to close the gap between physical and mental health care”.

Leaders from more than half of NHS mental health trusts (59%) took part in the landmark study.

Key findings from the resulting report include:

  • more than nine out of ten (92%) said changes to benefits including universal credit are increasing demand for mental health services in their area
  • a similar proportion (97%) pointed to increased loneliness and isolation
  • 95% indicated that homelessness was a factor
  • 98% cited financial hardship, and
  • 91% pointed to cuts in local services.

The survey also reveals that just 9% of NHS leaders believe they have the necessary staff numbers to address the problem. And when asked about the numbers and skills of staff in two years time, nearly two thirds (62%) said they were “very worried”.

And more than two thirds (69%) of mental health leaders said they were worried about maintaining the quality of the services they provide over the next two years.

Saffron Cordery, the deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, said: “It is welcome that more people are seeking support for mental health problems.

“We have seen great strides in promoting equality between mental and physical health, but there is more to do.

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“We need to be realistic about what services we are providing and when people are able to access the care they need and whether these are adequate to meet demand.

“Mental health leaders are clear that social and economic pressures are translating into higher demand for services. This demand is outstripping supply.

“Coupled with staff shortages and concerns that funding earmarked for mental health is not reaching the frontline, providers are worried about their ability to maintain the quality of services they can provide.

“The NHS long term plan sets out a welcome vision for mental health services, but we need to see greater realism about the demand challenge mental health services face.

“We need to see urgent action to address the care deficit identified by the sector.

“This must come through measures to lock in funding for the sector, recruit and retain the specialist staff we need and ensure mental health and well-being services play a central role in the development of integrated care systems.”