Budget freeze could lead to a mental health catastrophe say top psychiatrists

Scotland news
19 December 2022

A mental health budget freeze during the cost-of-living crisis could lead to a catastrophe the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Scotland, said. 

The statement comes after the Scottish Budget on Thursday, when deputy first minister John Swinney announced help for families and services during the cost-of-living crisis – but there was no mention of mental health care.

The Scottish Budget publication reveals that funding for mental health services will remain frozen in 2023/24 - which amounts to a real time cut in funding.

While funding rose from £273.9m in 2021/22 to £290.2m in 2023 - that figure remains the same for 2023/24.

Funding for health and social care and mental health (£120m), mental health recovery and renewal (3.7m) and community mental health and wellbeing (£15m) will also remain the same in 2023/24.

During his speech, the deputy first minister said an income tax rise would enable investment into the NHS next year.

But there were no assurances mental health services will see the 10% uplift promised by the SNP and coalition partners the Scottish Greens in their 2021 manifesto.

There are also worries that proposals to move mental health services into the new National Care service lacks clarity at a time when frontline services are struggling to meet demand. 

The funding freeze comes after a poll by the Scottish Government revealed 48% of Scots felt their mental health had been negatively impacted by the cost-of-living crisis rising to 76% amongst the worst off. 

Psychiatrists are now warning that funding being frozen as well as lack of detail over the new National Care Service - could damage the mental health of Scots across the country.

Dr Pavan Srireddy, consultant psychiatrist and policy lead at the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Scotland, said:

“What we have here is a mental health catastrophe in the making. People are really struggling with the cost-of-living crisis which is having an enormous toll on their mental health.

“As stated by the deputy first minister the income tax rise should be used for patient care spending. However, we would once again reiterate that patient care must take priority instead of major structural change as proposed by the National Care Service.

“We’re very worried about the proposals for the new National Care Service, which we thinks lacks detail. We also believe it is wrong to be spending money on structural change at a time when frontline services are struggling to meet demand.

“It’s quite astonishing that during this time budgets for mental health care are being frozen. While provisions were put in place during Covid-19, in stark contrast, budgets have been frozen for mental health services in response to the current cost-of-living crisis. 

“We wanted the Scottish Government to guarantee that 10% of health spend is given to mental health and it receives its fair share of funding but sadly, what we’ve seen in this budget is cut in real terms. We need firm assurances we will see this promised uplift.”

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