Letter from President Professor Wendy Burn to the Guardian Editor

Statement / comment
24 November 2017

There is a real and imminent danger that the promises made to improve mental health services for the millions of people who need them are about to be betrayed. This is because the chancellor failed to give the NHS the money it needs to continue to deliver current levels of care (Extra cash ‘plugs some gaps but not all’, warns top doctor, 23 November). Before the budget, the head of NHS England, Simon Stevens, warned that a cash shortfall would make it “increasingly difficult” to deliver on the government’s promise to improve mental health services in the coming years.

The chancellor’s failure to heed that warning means difficult choices will have to be made when NHS England’s leaders meet to consider the budget next week. We are seeking an urgent commitment from NHS England and the government that the promised improvements to mental health services will be honoured. As shown by the case of girl X, highlighted by Sir James Munby this summer (Bed found for suicidal girl after judge’s fury, 5 August), this is a matter of life and death for many of our most vulnerable citizens.

The person who has just been brought to A&E after trying to hang themselves can’t wait; the child in care who has been repeatedly abused and pushed from pillar to post can’t wait; nor can all the girl Xs out there who cannot get a service without the intervention of a high court judge. Daily, hourly, lives are being put at risk and futures blighted by a lack of timely and appropriate treatment. The government and NHS England must stick to their promise to end this terrible injustice.

Professor Wendy Burn
President, Royal College of Psychiatrists


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