An estimated 680,000 people in Oxfordshire have faced a severe and sustained reduction in mental health services at a time when public awareness of mental illness is growing, Unite, the country’s largest union, has warned.
Unite, which represents 100,000 members in the health service, has particular concerns about the reorganisation of specialist psychology services at Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, which also covers Buckinghamshire, but hits Oxfordshire services the hardest.
The union said that Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) responsible for buying healthcare for its population is ‘one of the serial underfunders’ for mental health services, falling short of ‘the parity of esteem’ - the principle where mental health must be given equal priority to physical health, as enshrined by the 2012 Health and Social Care Act.
The union said that Oxfordshire CCG has increased its mental health services spending to 10.4 per cent of its commissioning budget, but this is below the national average figure of 13.9 per cent.
Unite said that it had launched a campaign to raise public awareness of the adverse impacts in Oxfordshire.
Unite national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said: “Oxfordshire CCG ranks in the bottom half of national spending on mental health – it is a serial underfunder. Psychological therapies have lost about 90 per cent of their most senior clinicians since 2007.
“We need to reverse this alarming trend to avoid the nightmare scenario of mentally ill people falling through the care net. We urge local commissioners to increase spending on mental health and to improve funding in specialist psychological therapies.
“Otherwise a significant proportion of people with severe problems may no longer get specialist help, such as those suffering from the aftermath of childhood trauma, or military veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
“Consultant psychology posts in adult services have recently been reduced by a third in Oxfordshire. There is an expectation that less qualified senior staff will do more complex work with patients who have serious mental health problems.
“This bad news is coming at a time when the public is becoming increasingly aware of the impact of mental illness and when the stigma attached to such illnesses is fast receding.
“We have mounted the #psychologistsmatter campaign where we have asked applied psychologists to speak with their MPs and councillors about the importance of psychology services. We are banging the drum to alert the public to this dire situation.
“Mental health services across the UK have been chronically cash starved – and only this week Unite revealed the threat to services in Derbyshire for adults traumatised by childhood abuse.”
Notes to editors:
For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Unite press office is on: 020 3371 2065. Email: email@example.com
- Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.