Mental health cuts cost the NHS millions, charity says

Rethink said cognitive behavioural therapy could help cut long-term costs of care
Cuts to mental health care are costing the NHS millions of pounds long-term, a report has said.

More cases of psychosis and schizophrenia now end up in hospital rather than being treated in the community, it said.

Rethink Mental Illness published the report with the London School of Economics.

Cuts mean fewer people have access to early intervention treatment, such as talking therapy, Rethink said.

It said the NHS could save more than £50m a year by shifting its focus.

Britain’s recession in 2008 led to cuts across the NHS, as the government struggled to deal with ballooning deficits.

The report said it costs on average £13 a day to support someone with psychosis or schizophrenia in the community.

It said this compared with the £350 average daily cost of keeping a mental health patient in hospital.

‘Shift of resources’

Meanwhile, 54% of the psychosis budget was being spent on inpatient care rather than on preventive community services, the report found.

Family therapy, where families of people with psychosis and schizophrenia are supported, cognitive behavioural therapy, and peer support could help cut long-term costs of care, it said.

Health Minister Norman Lamb said early access to treatment in the community was “often the best option” for people with psychosis and schizophrenia.

He said: “Not only do they benefit from being in familiar surroundings among loved ones but they are less likely to need costly hospital stays.”

Mr Lamb called for a “shift of resources” to preventive care and said that the government had given NHS England a “clear objective” to put mental and physical health on a par.

Mental health trust budgets for 2013-14 have fallen by 2.3% from 2011-12.

The cuts have meant mental health trusts have been asked to save almost 20% more from next year’s budgets than hospitals.

Budgets for community mental health teams, which give continuing support to patients to prevent their health deteriorating to crisis point,reached a plateau for 2011-12 but referrals rose by 13%.

‘Parity of esteem’

The report also predicted more than £50m a year could be saved if early detection services could be strengthened.

It said the NHS saved £989 every time people were treated with cognitive behavioural therapy instead of going to hospital.

Rethink said mental health accounted for 23% of the disease burden in England but received only 13% of the health budget.

Dr Martin McShane, national director for long-term conditions at NHS England, said the report was “very helpful” and was supportive of what the organisation wanted to achieve.

He said: “We recognise we must work to ensure that in everything we do mental health has parity of esteem with physical health.

“We have significantly invested in improving access to psychological therapies and dementia care.”

Via Bridget via

Schizophrenia Awareness Week 2013

Schizophrenia Awareness Week is 11th – 17 November 2013.

Matthew has done video and audio blogs  about Schizophrenia; its symptoms, what you can do to raise awareness of it this week and what Rethink and other organisations are doing to help with this illness.

The video is at:

The audio at:

The transcript of these blogs can be downloaded from:

Why the Sun is so wrong to use violence and fear to start a debate about the mental health system

There are good days and bad days in this job. Monday wasn’t a good one when I saw the Sun’s headline claiming 1200 people had been killed by ‘mental patients’ in the last ten years.

After so much improvement in the way the media reports mental illness in recent years, it felt like a huge step back to the bad old days of headlines like ‘Bonkers Bruno locked up’. In this world of sensationalist reporting, violence is the only prism through which mental illness is viewed.

This is not in any way, to downplay the terrible tragedy of a young life lost. Or indeed the urgent need to address failings in the system which so often play a part in incidents of this nature. And I’m not saying that murders involving people with mental illness should not be reported, of course they should. What I am saying is that they should be reported responsibly and in a way which does reinforce the stereotype that equates mental illness with violence.

While of course there are cases where people with mental illness commit serious acts of violence, we must keep the real risk in perspective. Ninety-five per cent of murders are committed by people who do not have a mental illness. In the vast majority of those 5 per cent of cases, there are other factors at play such as alcohol or drug misuse.

When the coverage of an issue is as crude and sensationalist as it was on Monday, everyone with a mental health diagnosis suffers.  It has been moving to see the reaction from people with mental illness themselves. Many have taken to social media to explain how this kind of reporting compounds the social isolation which mental illness can cause.

As one mental health blogger, Ceri, put it:  “Feeling exposed, vulnerable, persecuted, threatened and fearful, thinking that everyone knows you are evil, is a common part of the paranoid symptoms I and others experience. Having it shouted in the headlines that all this is really true, that you really are dangerous to others, and everyone knows, is a sick joke.”

The Sun may argue that they are only highlighting this issue because services are failing and something needs to be done. While I agree that mental health services badly need to improve, I would argue that coverage of this kind is not the place to start the argument.

We need to start with the enormous human suffering which can be caused by mental illness when decent treatment isn’t available. We should be talking about how people with serious mental illness are being let down by the NHS and social care system. We should be talking about the many thousands of lives lost every year to suicide.

I’d like to see the Sun run a headline highlighting the 30,000 people with mental health problems who are dying needlessly every year from preventable physical health problems. Or a front page splash about the excellent reportproduced this week by Victim Support and Mind which shows that people with mental illness are three times more likely to be the victims of crime.

Last year our Schizophrenia Commission highlighted the way in which we are systematically letting down the 300,000 people in England who have schizophrenia or psychosis and their families.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.  We can do so much more to improve the lives of people with severe mental illness.  Schizophrenia and other conditions do not need to be diagnoses of despair and fear.

A constant focus on a small number of cases involving violence reinforce fear and despair. Instead we need to see a wider debate about the individual and societal costs of mental illness and what can be done about it. A debate prompted by compassion, not fear.


Lewisham People’s Day: Audio Blog by Matthew

Lewisham People’s Day was held on Saturday 13 July 2013, 12 noon–8pm at Mountsfield Park, Catford SE6

This is Matthew’s great audio blog of his trip there.

The fit-for-work test fails mentally ill people – not the other way round

I’ve seen myself how those with mental disorders are at a huge disadvantage in passing this test, which has to be changed

As a 76-year-old archdeacon and former vicar, I never imagined that in retirement I’d end up starting a fight with the government. But that’s exactly what happened this week, when I launched the I Agree With Dick petition, in conjunction with the charity Rethink Mental Illness. We’re demanding that the government stops using the work capability assessment to judge whether people with mental illness should receive benefits, until the test is improved.

This matters so much to me because I’ve been through the test with others, and have seen just how unfair it is. My son has bipolar disorder. Over the years he’s been in and out of hospital, and sectioned three times. He cannot live on his own, and when he’s tried to go back to work it’s only served to made his condition even worse. The benefits he receives help him get by from day-to-day.

But when he went for the government’s fit-for-work test, it felt like the odds were stacked against him against him from the start. We found that people like my son have to answer incredibly complex questionnaires about their physical health, but hardly get asked anything about mental illness. They are also expected to gather extensive medical evidence from their GP, psychiatrist and other health professionals, explaining why they are unfit to work.

Without this evidence, your benefits could be cut immediately. But if you’re hearing voices or going through a psychotic episode, gathering those kinds of documents is an almost impossible task. It means that people with mental illness are at a huge disadvantage and it’s simply not fair.

My son was lucky to have our help to fill in forms and gather medical documents. But despite all the evidence we presented on his behalf, he was found fit to work, meaning he had to start job-hunting or face losing his benefits. Thankfully we managed to appeal against that decision, but it was a long and stressful ordeal that took more than six months. I dread to think what would have happened to our son if we hadn’t been there.

There are thousands of other people going through the exact same thing right now who have no one to help them. I fear that they’ll end up in a terrible situation because they’re too unwell to fight their case.

And don’t have to just take my word that the benefits test is unfair. In May, judges came to the conclusion that the test puts people with severe mental illness at a substantial disadvantage, and that it should not continue in its current form. The government is now appealing that decision, but in the meantime it’s still using the test to assess about6,000 people with mental health problems each week.

That’s why I can’t just sit by and do nothing, we have to keep pushing until the test is fixed. The lives of some of the most vulnerable and unwell people in our society could depend on it.

If you agree with me, please sign my petition, and help us keep up the pressure. Now is the time to stand up.

#RT via

Judges rule back-to-work assessments ‘unfair’ to mentally ill

Iain Duncan Smith’s drive to cut the number of people living on disability benefits has suffered a blow after judges ruled that back-to-work assessments discriminate against people with mental health conditions.

Three judges sitting at the Upper Tribunal in London ruled that the current system, which places the onus on the claimants to produce evidence of their condition, is unreasonable to people with mental health conditions such as autism.

The ruling that the current assessment system breaches equalities laws could call into question the decisions against hundreds of thousands of would-be Employment Support Allowance (ESA) claimants over the last five years.

The system of Work Capability Assessments, carried out by the private contractor Atos, has been mired in controversy amid claims it is “inhumane”.

Charities claim it has unfairly denied thousands of sick and disabled people their benefits but the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said it had made major improvements to ensure the assessments are fair.

Around 670,000 people are currently receiving the benefit – almost 40 per cent of them because of mental or behavioural conditions.

Another 800,000 have been assessed and turned down after being ruled fit for work. Yet almost 115,000 people have successfully appealed already.

Two people with mental health problems brought judicial review proceedings, arguing that it is unfair to require them to obtain evidence of their condition, such as a letter from a doctor or social worker.

They were supported by three charities: Mind, the National Autistic Society and Rethink Mental Illness.

The judges agreed that it should be up to the DWP to obtain this and that it should make “reasonable adjustments” to the system.

Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, said: “The judgment is a victory, not only for the two individuals involved in this case, but for thousands of people who have experienced additional distress and anxiety because they have struggled through an assessment process which does not adequately consider the needs of people with mental health problems.

“Mind has campaigned to improve the assessment process for many years and we will monitor the situation closely to ensure people with mental health problems receive the benefits they are entitled to.”

Paul Jenkins, of Rethink Mental Illness added: “This ruling proves once and for all that this cruel and unfair process is unlawful.

“The judges have independently confirmed what our members have been saying for years – the system is discriminating against some of the most ill and vulnerable people in our society, the very people it is meant to support.”

But a spokesman for the DWP said it would appeal the decision arguing that it had already tripled the number of people with mental or behavioural problems receiving special help with their applications.

He said: “We believe we have made – and continue to make – significant improvements to the WCA process for people with mental health conditions.

“The percentage of people with mental health conditions who go into the support group for ESA has more than tripled since 2010.”

#RT via Matthew via

Rafiki Project

Rafiki Project Information Sheet – Final

Rafiki Promotional Poster

Who we are?

The Rafiki project is an exciting new project developed to start conversations with African Communities in South London about Mental Health.  Africa Advocacy Foundation delivers the project in partnership with Community Therapies and Training Service. The Rafiki project is funded by Time to Change, England’s biggest programme to end the stigma and discrimination faced by people with mental health problems. The programme is run by the charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, and funded by the Department of Health and Comic Relief.

What does Rafiki mean?

Rafiki means ‘Friend’ in Swahili. We believe that by starting conversations, sharing stories and experiences around mental health we can create new friendships to challenge stigma and discrimination.

What we are doing?

Rafiki project will bring together people with personal experience of mental health problems and those without experience of mental health problems from African communities to challenge stigma and discrimination. We are recruiting 50 people to train up as community champions to volunteer within African Communities. We are looking for people with lived experience of mental health problems and/or an interest in mental health to train.

Why are we doing it?

We know stigma and discrimination impacts all people but we know within African communities the issues around culture and mental health impact us in a different way. It means that more people from African communities are likely to end up in hospital and less likely to talk about their problems with family and friends. We also know that sometimes when people talk about the problems they have, they may experience discrimination. We think that by getting support earlier can not only prevent mental ill health from developing but, also support people with mental ill health through recovery. We want to challenge the stigma that stops us sharing and believe that by sharing experiences both good and bad can help challenge stigma and discrimination around mental health!

How will we do it?

We are looking for a range of people from all backgrounds to play a role in the project. The project is aimed at starting conversations with African Communities so we welcome speakers of other languages. As a Champion you will be expected to attend training over 6 weeks and then commit to a minimum of 30 hours over 6 months which works out at about 5 hours per month and this includes support sessions. If you are not able to make sessions we are happy to be flexible with this and if you would like to become more involved we would welcome this as well.

The champions will then lead and develop community engagement and mental health awareness activities these will include art, poetry & music events and community outreach activities and make links with faith and spiritual groups. The aim is for groups to carry out different activities to engage people from African communities in conversation about mental health.

A weekly peer-support group will provide a space for the Community Champions to share experiences and support each other.

Where next?

If you are interested in registering for the programme we would love to hear from you! If English is your second language let us know and we can arrange for someone to translate!

Contact Naomi on 020 8698 4473 or email

Follow us on Twitter @RafikiMH