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'Why are children in London worth three times more than those in Norfolk and Suffolk?' - Mental health governors

NSFT co-lead governors Howard Tidman (left) and Nigel Boldero. Photo: NSFT

NSFT co-lead governors Howard Tidman (left) and Nigel Boldero. Photo: NSFT

NSFT

Governors at the region's mental health trust have demanded answers over why spending on children in London is more than three times that on those in the east.

UK Parliment Offical Norman LambUK Parliment Offical Norman Lamb

A report from the Children's Commissioner last month revealed that children in the east of England have the least money spent on their mental health care in the country - just £5.32 per head compared to the highest of £17.88 per head in London.

Due to different definitions of services and interpretation of data the report recognised it was difficult to compare between regions.

But those elected to Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust's Council of Governors have hit out at "unacceptable waiting lists and services" for children and asked what was planned to bring funding up to the national average of £14 per child for low-level care.

Low-level mental health services provide preventative and early intervention support for problems such as anxiety, depression and eating disorders.

Richard Watson, deputy chief officer for NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk and NHS West Suffolk clinical commissioning groups. Photo: NHSRichard Watson, deputy chief officer for NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk and NHS West Suffolk clinical commissioning groups. Photo: NHS

In a letter sent to MPs and health and social care bosses co-lead governors Nigel Boldero and Howard Tidman said: "Putting things more directly, is the mental health of a London child considered to be worth more than three times that of a child living in Norfolk and Waveney?"

While they recognised some variations in cost, their letter said: "But it would seem unlikely that these are anywhere near the variants shown."

In Suffolk Richard Watson, deputy chief officer for NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk and NHS West Suffolk clinical commissioning groups, said they had reassured the governors and outlined "significant spending increase" in the past few years.

He said: "Our investment in mental health has equalled, and in many years exceeded, our growth in resources."

Anne Longfield, Children's Commissioner for England. Photo: PA Wire/PA ImagesAnne Longfield, Children's Commissioner for England. Photo: PA Wire/PA Images

For 2019/20 the CCGs planned to spend £9.758m on services, up from £6.845 in 2016/17.

While in Norfolk and Waveney, bosses said they were writing to MPs and governors and added: "It is difficult to effectively compare spend on services due to different ways of reporting and monitoring expenditure within commissioning organisations."

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But a spokesman said £33m had been put into all children's mental health services, with another £1.1m promise for 2019/2020.

He added: "Finance is only one important element of service improvement. We have undertaken a review of children and young people's mental health provision and are now working to transform services, to make it easier to find help and to enable us to increase the number of children and young people who are able to access help and treatment."

Since receiving the letter Norman Lamb, MP for North Norfolk, has written to health secretary Matt Hancock and other health and social care leaders, asking for clarification on spending and how to address the shortfall.

He said: "I am dismayed that such huge variations in spend on children's mental health support occur from region to region.

"It is wholly unacceptable that children and young people face a postcode lottery when it comes to receiving the support and care they deserve and are entitled to.

"Our children and young people across the region deserve to have access to mental health support.

"At present they are being badly let down."

The children's commissioner, Anne Longfield, said last month: "Those who are accepted for treatment often have to wait months for help, children have even told me they had to threaten to take their own life before they managed to access treatment. This situation has to change."

Researchers found nationally £226m was allocated for low-level services in 2018/19, just over £14 per child.

Around half of this funding comes from local authorities (LAs) and half from NHS sources.

In 2018/19, the top 25pc of local areas spent £1.1m or more on low-level mental health services, while the bottom 25pc spent £177,000 or less.

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