In the sixth of the NFWI resolutions to be presented to Sotonettes members for ballot, equal funding of care for people with poor mental health is debated.
Sotonettes members are entitled to vote on this issue; for more information, click here, or download a handy booklet here. Or visit our Facebook page!
“The National Federation of Women’s Institutes calls upon the government to ensure that the care of people with poor mental health receives funding and respect equal to that provided for people with physical health problems.”
The proposer is concerned about under-funding for mental health services, citing news reports of mental health budget cuts, long delays for patients seeking treatment, and paucity of resources and research. If the resolution is successful the proposer would like to see the WI campaign for shorter waiting times, more research into mental illness and its treatment, and more financial support for patients and families.
Outline of the issue
The Mental Health Policy Group – made up of the UK’s leading mental health NGOs – stated in its pre-Election manifesto that: ‘funding for mental health services has been cut in real terms for three years in a row. Mental health problems account for 23% of the total burden of disease. Yet despite the existence of cost-effective treatments they receive only 13% of NHS expenditure.’
Demand for mental health services is on the increase, the Policy Group estimates two million more UK adults will have mental health problems by 2030. Significant numbers of the UK population have mental health problems that are never treated; suicide remains the leading cause of death for UK men under fifty, self-harm rates are amongst the highest in Europe, and more than one in ten women experience mental health problems during and after pregnancy.
Those with mental health problems often find them compounded with serious physical health challenges. Labelled one of the starkest health inequalities in our society, people with serious mental illness are at risk of dying, on average, 20 years prematurely. One in three of the 100,000 ‘avoidable deaths’ every year happen to people with mental health problems. Compared with the general population, people with serious mental illness experience: twice the risk of diabetes, three times the risk of dying from coronary heart disease, and over four times the overall risk of dying prematurely (aged under 50).
In 2011, the Government set out a strategy to improve mental health and wellbeing, ‘No Health Without Mental Health.’ This strategy was enshrined into law with the 2012 Health and Social Care Act which introduced an explicit recognition of the Secretary of State for Health’s duty towards both physical and mental health. This Act placed a legislative requirement on the health service to address the disparity between mental and physical health through a concept known as parity of esteem. Parity of esteem recognises that mental health impacts on physical health, and vice versa, and therefore they should both be treated together and equally. A key aspect of implementing this parity is an equal distribution of resources, as well as equal consideration given both aspects of health when commissioning services.
Mental health services were given a boost in the 2015 coalition government budget when the then Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, announced he had secured £1.25bn to enable the NHS to treat more than 100,000 young people suffering mental illness by 2020. The announcement built on Clegg’s 2014 announcement of the first waiting-time standards for mental health treatment and £120m funding for service improvements designed to put a stop to ‘discrimination against mental health.’
Given demand on services and reduced budgets, services are inevitably patchy. Intervention is often at crisis point, waiting times can be lengthy, and the majority of mental health treatments, such as non-consultant led talking therapies, are excluded from the NICE recommended treatments that the NHS Constitution gives people the right to access.
Arguments for the resolution
- Poor mental health is a big, and growing, problem in the UK. It can lead to a range of physical health problems and increases the risk of dying. Achieving funding equal to that spent on physical health will help treat many people, save many lives, and increase efficiency in the long-term.
- Many mental health problems are hidden, especially that suffered by new mothers in the postnatal period. A WI campaign can extend the reach of mental health awareness, help improve attitudes toward mental health and encourage people to seek help.
- This resolution fits nicely with the NFWI’s previous resolution on Care not Custody, calling for liaison and diversion services for people in the criminal justice system with mental health problems.
Arguments against the resolution
- Parity of esteem requires the health service to deliver joined up care, tackling both mental and physical health together in a holistic approach. Is separating mental health helpful towards this? Is it even possible to effectively separate the treatments and funding streams for physical and mental health?
- Whilst this is a worthwhile resolution that all members can take action on, it may not be a campaign that allows for hands on involvement in local WIs and local communities. It is not obvious how WIs can get involved and therefore might fail to engage our core audience: WI members.
Groups to contact for further information
Centre for Mental Health
Maya House, 134-138 Borough High Street, London, SE1 1LB
Tel: 020 7827 8300
15-19 Broadway, Stratford, London E15 4BQ
Tel: 020 8519 2122
89 Albert Embankment, London, SE1 7TP
Tel: 0300 5000 927
Mental health network, NHS Confederation
NHS Confederation, Floor 4, 50 Broadway, London, SW1H 0DB
Tel: 0207 799 6666