Norfolk and Suffolk mental health trust funding concerns

Norman Lamb
Image caption North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb is the Liberal Democrat minister for care and support in the coalition government

A mental health trust covering an area where care minister Norman Lamb is MP has warned it is struggling to provide a "safe and effective" service.

Gary Page, chair of Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, said "fundamental" changes were needed.

Mr Page said funding should be linked to patient numbers, as is the case with hospitals.

North Norfolk MP Mr Lamb said new NHS standards could prove a "breakthrough" in giving mental health a "fair deal".

The trust has had to make £20m of savings over the last two years, but is still facing a £1m deficit this year.

Image caption Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust was formed from the merger of two mental health bodies

Mr Page told the BBC: "We welcome the pledge from the government about parity of esteem between physical and mental health but that needs to be translated into a fundamental change in the way mental health services are funded.

"In the acute sector, the amount of funding a hospital receives is linked to how many patients it treats.

"In mental health, we get a fixed amount each year irrespective of whether or not demand is increasing.

"At the moment, we continue to believe the care we are providing is safe and effective but we can't continue to provide that level of service (under present funding arrangements)."

Image caption Emma Corlett, of Unison, has campaigned for greater resources for mental health services in Norfolk and Suffolk

Care minister Mr Lamb said it was the last Labour government that had excluded mental health from the same standards as physical health.

"This injustice inevitably means that funding for physical health is prioritised over mental health at a local level. We are now rectifying this unfairness," he said.

"I am currently working closely with NHS England to agree details of how key access and waiting time standards for mental health services can be established starting next April.

"I believe that this could bring a real breakthrough in making sure that mental health gets a fair deal."

Emma Corlett, Unison's branch spokeswoman for members at the trust, said: "There is sufficient money available to make sure both acute hospital and mental health services have equal funding.

"Funding should reflect the number of people using services."

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