Cost-of-living crisis threat of ‘pandemic proportions’ to mental health, warns UK’s leading psychiatrist

Press release
20 June 2022

The Royal College of Psychiatrists is calling for an urgent cash injection for NHS mental health services to match inflation.

The President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists has warned that “the cost-of-living crisis poses a threat of pandemic proportions to the nation’s mental health.”

Addressing the RCPsych International Congress, Dr Adrian James, said that “food insecurity, fuel poverty, debt and the loneliness and isolation that come with it, are a hard reality for millions of people.”

With mental health referrals at record levels of 4.3m last year and a backlog of 1.4m people still waiting to start treatment, pressure on the NHS is likely to reach new unprecedented levels. Dr James added:

“Much like with the pandemic, those already living with a mental illness are more likely to suffer the consequences of the looming economic downturn, which will be felt for years to come. We must be ready to offer them the specialist, high quality care we know can make a difference.”

Dr James is concerned that “the already tight mental health budget will have to stretch even further to keep pace with soaring inflation.”

He called for “a cash boost of £300m to match inflation and deliver the investment package promised in the NHS Long-Term plan.”

Of the £2.3 billion mental health investment after inflation in the Long-Term Plan over the five-year period until 2023/2024, only £2.05bn is set to be delivered on the latest inflation rate, according to the Royal College of Psychiatrists. It says the extra £300m needed can be partly taken from the recently announced £1.5bn for local systems, but further funding will be necessary next year.

Dr James praised healthcare staff for their efforts:

“NHS staff are continuing to make personal sacrifices to help their patients, having worked tirelessly for two years” but added that “funding for mental health services needs to be prioritised as we’re being called upon to overcome yet another unprecedented challenge.”

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