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New talking therapy strategy for England earmarks €465m

Excess-stress, Post-slow-stress fatigue and other emotional health issues are estimated to cost the English economy £105bn a year. A new incentive may change this, but only if the health authorities do their homework, says Nicrs spokesperson.

The talking therapies initiative for England, the UK’s largest constituent nation may, however, be marred by the dismissal of an independent adviser who highlighted that the £400m funding pledge was not ring-fenced when it was allocated to the NHS in the 2010 comprehensive spending review.  This means that primary care trusts and from 2013, GP consortia will have a choice over whether or not to allocate the cash to talking therapies.

The Department of Health has itself expressed concern that the £400m which is a key component of its ‘No Health without Mental Health’ plan, may be allocated to other priority areas by PCTs as they try to balance their books in response to NHS spending cuts.

Whilst the National Institute for Clinical Research into Stress (Nicrs) in England, at Oxford University Begbroke is broadly supportive of the Government’s talking therapies initiative, like other charities, Nicrs is also concerned at how this is to be reconciled with cuts witnessed in many areas of mental healthcare provision such as serial closures of psychiatric beds, day-centres, occupational therapy facilities and community services. This is against a backdrop of increasing in-patient numbers in mental health wards and further savings expected from the NHS of £20bn from 2011-2015.   

“We would like to see PCTs ensure the funding is used in the way it was intended, to provide better access to talking therapies for all children, teenagers and adults who need it,” said spokesperson Deepa Juneja.

“This funding will more than pay for itself in the long-term. Many studies demonstrate the effectiveness of talking therapies; they help people return to work quickly and effectively and, therefore, reduce benefits claimed. They also significantly decrease the number of cases of serious illness, because they help to highlight difficulties early on,” she continued.

Government research cites that ‘only 54% of people with a common mental health condition are in work,’ and ‘of the 2.5 million people currently on out-of-work, health-related benefits, around 42% are claiming primarily because of mental health conditions.’

According to Nicrs, the economic case in favour of ring-fencing cash for tackling mental health disorders is clear as it is estimated that mental health disorders cost the economy in England over £105 billion a year and treatment costs are expected to double over the next two decades. 

Says Deepa: “We can only hope that the Government’s four year plan for implementing better access to talking therapies - which includes a framework for moving the initiative forward, monitoring its progress, and holding stakeholders to account for delivery against expected outcomes - will outweigh the lack of segregated funding.”