Health trusts call for single mental care fund

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The Independent Online
A radical plan to merge health and social services funding for the mentally ill under a single chief executive was put forward yesterday to end the "confusion and instability" which surrounds services for the mentally ill.

The call from the National Association of Health Authorities and Trusts (Nahat) is a large step towards the idea of a single mental health authority to control all spending on mental illness which was put forward earlier this year by John Major and revealed exclusively in the Independent earlier this month.

Yesterday's proposals stop short of that while saying that the idea "has some attractions". But the authority warned that if its blueprint for a new single budget fails then separate mental health authorities might have to be the answer.

Under the ideas, which were backed by the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health, separate funds for care of the mentally ill would be brought into one, overseen by a committee drawn from both health and social services and with one chief executive or director for mental health spending. This approach is believed to be close to the thinking of Stephen Dorrell, the Secretary of State for Health.

But Philip Hunt, director of Nahat, said: "We are in the last chance saloon. Unless we can make joint working between health and local authorities a reality, the option of a new mental health authority would have to be brought into the arena once again."

Yesterday's report argues that creating such a body would take four years to achieve any benefits and would still leave in place some of the boundary problems between health, social and other services. The existing problems are so great however, that "the only option which can be ruled out is to do nothing".

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