£540m plea for mental health

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The Independent Online
The Government should ensure savings from the closure of long- stay psychiatric hospitals are reinvested in mental health services in the community, a Mental Health Foundation report published today says.

The charity argues there is a £540m shortfall between needs and resources and, as a result, has estimated 300,000 severely mentally ill people are being denied adequate community care. An extra £1,700 a person would improve services such as housing, daytime occupation, respite care and accessible medical and specialist psychiatric help.

The proportion of NHS spending on mental health has fallen from 15 per cent in 1958, before closures began, to 10 per cent in 1993. While 75 per cent of spending on mental illness goes on in-patients, 90 per cent of the severely mentally ill live in the community.

The foundation is calling on the Government to adopt a practical definition of serious mental illness, assess needs and estimate necessary resources and ensure savings made from hospital closures are reinvested in community services.

June McKerrow, foundation director, said: "The public needs to be reassured that the services are in place in their communities once the long-stay hospitals have closed. The money is available ... yet there is little evidence to suggest that the majority of these savings are being put back into community care."