RCPsych responds to the Spring Budget 2024

Statement / comment
11 March 2024

Responding to the Chancellor's Spring Budget, Dr Lade Smith CBE, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said:

“Research into new technologies could be revolutionary for mental healthcare in the UK, allowing for more flexible care to a larger population. It could also allow the UK to become a leader in a global neuroscience market worth $612 billion in 2022.

“Today’s Budget 2024 announcement of additional funding in NHS technological and digital transformation is welcome. However, this investment must be used to help mental health services provide faster, more efficient care.

“It is also positive to see extra funding will be provided to expand research into life-saving medicines and diagnostics products. This offers an important opportunity to provide greater emphasis on mental health research.

“With all these opportunities, it is disappointing that the Chancellor did not use his statement to make a significant increase in investment in mental health. One in four people have a mental illness and we’re in the middle of a crisis that is impacting nearly every family across the country.

“This is not just a health emergency. Mental health conditions cost the UK economy an estimated £118 billion annually, equivalent to five per cent of GDP, and 1.4 million adults across the UK are out of work because of mental ill-health. If the Chancellor is serious about boosting productivity, he must get serious about improving mental healthcare.

“While we were pleased to see the funding allocated in the Autumn Budget to NHS Talking Therapies and Individual Placement and Support, this is simply a piece of the puzzle, not the full solution.

“Clinicians, including psychiatrists, often have to work with outdated, poorly functioning equipment - computers which take 20 minutes to power up, slowed by their inability to run the latest software; patchy WiFi - this takes up valuable time they could spend with patients and is frankly inefficient.

“NHS staff should not only be working with modern IT equipment but in buildings which are fit for purpose. Sadly, this is often not the case and outdated facilities hamper many patients’ recovery. We need a new Health Infrastructure Plan for Mental Health if we are to reverse the trend of declining services.

“There must also be investment in retaining and recruiting the psychiatric and wider mental health workforce. This should include funding to consistently increase medical training places each year between 2025 and 2031/32. We also need forecasts for the expansion of the psychiatric workforce to assist with both short- and long-term planning.

“Any expansion of the workforce and additional investment must be supported by a focus across government on preventing mental illness. Half of mental health conditions arise by age 14 and the sooner we provide people with care, the less likely they are to develop a more severe condition which not only worsens their quality of life but persists into adulthood and prevents them from working. By investing in mental health services, we can create a more productive and prosperous society and help people live the best life they can.”

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