UK & World News
Mental Health Services 'Face Funding Crisis'
Mental health is receiving just 10% of NHS spending across England, with some areas dedicating more like 6% of their budgets to it, Sky News can reveal.
Charities say the figures "paint a profoundly worrying picture" and fly in the face of a Coalition promise to give mental health "parity of esteem" with physical health.
They point to a London School of Economics (LSE) study that says the "burden of disease" of mental health is 23%.
Norman Lamb, the care minister, said it was "unacceptable" to see mental health being disadvantaged and promised to introduce waiting list targets to drive up standards.
The latest figures were obtained by Shadow Minister for Public Health Luciana Berger under the Freedom of Information Act, with two thirds of the 211 clinical commissioning groups responding.
Among those spending less than 7% were NHS groups in Surrey Heath, Solihull and Northern, Eastern and Western Devon.
Even in high-need areas like Merton, where 31% of the population has a mental health disorder, spending is below average at 9.7%.
Ms Berger said she had received a "barrage" of correspondence detailing cases in which patients had to travel hundreds of miles for help or wait years to access talking therapies.
Kerry Owen, 30, told Sky News she was refused such treatment after hearing voices and experiencing delusions when she was 19.
"It would have been about seven years before I really started getting the help that changed my life - with the early intervention team. Before that I just felt like I was pass the parcel."
After one psychotic episode doctors said she should be sectioned, but there were no beds across northwest England. Another time she was dragged away by police officers.
"You imagine what you'd say if someone with a heart attack was taken to a police cell instead of accident and emergency?"
Professor Sue Bailer, the former president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said today's figures went backwards and were shocking.
"When you look at other types of illness such as diabetes, the spend and the burden of the illness are about on a par," she said.
The "burden of disease" is a World Health Organisation measurement that looks at death rates and the disabilities caused by various illness. Researchers at the London School of Economics came up with the 23% figure for mental health in the UK.
One of them said that it wasn't directly related to cost but would be a good starting point when considering budgets.
Mark Winstanley, CEO of Rethink Mental Illness, said: "There is a huge gulf between the demand for services, and what support is actually available to people in need."
Sophie Corlett, Director of External Relations at Mind, added: "This new data is the latest in a long line of signs that paint a profoundly worrying picture of widespread under-investment in mental health services at a local level across England."
Mr Lamb added: "When the Labour Government introduced maximum waiting times for treatment, mental health was not included, creating an institutional bias.
"So we've committed to introducing access and waiting time standards for mental health from next April and we're making progress towards payment systems for services that reward great results for patients."