Health Minister Questioned over Pledged money for CAMHS

Health Minister says he is committed to spending all money pledged for CAMHS

In the health oral questions in the House of Commons yesterday, Ministers questioned the Health Minister, Alistair Burt about child mental health services and spending.

David Rutley MP (Conservative, Macclesfield) asked what steps the Government is taking to improve support for children and young people with mental health problems.

The Minister for Community and Social Care, Alistair Burt MP (Conservative, North East Bedfordshire) responded with:

“The Government are committed to delivering the vision set out in “Future in mind” and are driving forward a major system-wide transformation programme, working alongside our partners in Government and arm’s length bodies to improve access to high-quality support across the country.”

The Shadow Minister for Mental Health, Luciana Berger MP (Labour, Liverpool, Wavertree) stated:

“Earlier this month, school and college leaders reported a large rise in the number of students suffering from anxiety. Two thirds said that they struggle to get mental health services for their pupils, and of those who had referred a student to child and adolescent mental health services—CAMHS—the majority rated them as “poor” or “very poor”. Despite the Minister’s warm words, things are getting worse, not better.”

She asked the Minister if he would confirm “that every single penny promised to children’s mental health will reach those services and that none of this money will be used to plug the gap in hospital budgets?”

Alistair Burt replied:

“Following long and frank conversations between myself, the NHS and the Treasury, I can give the hon. Lady that assurance—every penny of that £1.4 billion pledged in the 2015 Budget for CAMHS and for eating disorders will be spent on children’s mental health by the end of this Parliament. It is not fair for her constantly to say that nothing is going on. The first tranche of money—that £173 million—is being spent: £75 million to the clinical commissioning groups; £30 million to tackle eating disorders; £28 million for the expansion of children’s IAPT—improving access to psychological therapies—services; £15 million for perinatal services; and £25 million to address other issues involving training. That is money already committed and it is being spent now. The problems that she mentions are a high priority and are being plugged.”

Luciana Berger responded:

“I listened carefully to the Minister, but by his own admission—in response to parliamentary questions—he is going to underspend this year by £77 million on his pledge to spend £250 million on CAMHS, and by £11 million on his £15 million pledge regarding perinatal mental health. He talks about the importance of intervening earlier. Does he agree with Labour that every child should receive personal, social, health and economic education so that young people are equipped with the resilience better to support their mental health?”

Alistair Burt reiterated his commitment to spending the £1.4 billion committed to CAMHS:

“I have given a pledge, which the hon. Lady asked for in her first question, that the £1.4 billion committed to CAMHS will be spent by the end of this Parliament—and it will be. It is known that the first tranche has not been fully committed, but this is the first year and some money has to roll over. However, I have made absolutely sure that that money will be spent, including on perinatal services, which will reach a much better place than when we came into office, and that is very important.”

The Future in Mind Strategy was also discussed and Gavin Shuker MP (Labour, Luton South) asked what improvements have been made to child and adolescent mental health services since the publication of the Government’s strategy, “Future in mind”, in March 2015.

Alistair Burt responded by saying:

Progress has been made on many of the key ambitions set out in “Future in mind”. Of greatest significance is the development of local transformation plans that cover the full spectrum of children and young people’s mental health issues, from prevention to intervention for emerging or existing mental health problems, for every clinical commissioning group in the country.”

Mr Shuker continued to press Mr Burt on this issue:

“This month, the Mental Health Network, representing NHS providers, said that very little, if any, of the money promised for child and adolescent mental health has yet materialised and that some services are experiencing cuts in-year. The Minister must accept, despite his assurances to my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Luciana Berger), that the Department’s efforts in getting this money out the door has been woeful. What will he change?”

Mr Burt responded that “much more is being done to ensure that CCGs deliver what they need to deliver in relation to mental health. This year’s figures will show that, whereas there has been a 3.7% uplift for CCGs, there has been an uplift of 5.4% in mental health spending.”   For the full transcript here

ACP Chair, Heather Stewart said:  "I am pleased that MPs are holding the Minister to account and asking important questions about what is happening to the promised extra funding for CAMHS. It is extremely worrying that just under half of this money is going to clinical commissioning groups rather than to direct work with patients, and that senior child psychotherapists are continuing to see their posts being cut or downgraded."