The 700,000 residents of Oxfordshire have been urged to lobby the county’s six MPs about ‘the serial underfunding’ of mental health services by the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).
Unite, with 100,000 members in the health service, is one of the many campaigning organisations that is urging supporters to send a protest postcard to the MPs calling for a massive cash boost for mental health services.
The call comes on the eve of Children’s Mental Health Week which starts on Monday (February 4).
Unite said that the CCG is persistently spending below the national average of 13.9 per cent of its commissioning budget on mental health services. It also fell 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.
Last July, Unite warned that Oxfordshire residents have faced a severe and sustained reduction in mental health services when public awareness of mental illness is growing.
At the time, Unite had 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.
“Oxfordshire CCG ranks in the bottom half of national spending on mental health – it is a serial and persistent under-funder,” said Unite regional officer Jesika Parmar.
“We are urging the people of Oxfordshire to write to their local MP to gain their support for a massive increase in mental health spending for the county.
“One of the key demands is an Oxford ‘weighting’ scheme so that health professionals can afford to live and work in their local community.
“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),” warned Parma.
See more details on Children’s Mental Health Week