Prime minister Theresa May has unveiled an NHS reform plan that includes a boost to mental health services today, despite objections from the Treasury.
The NHS long-term plan plan, published today by NHS England with the backing of Number 10, puts to use a funding boost announced by chancellor Philip Hammond last summer, and includes £2.3bn for mental health provision.
But a Treasury source told the Financial Times that the department was concerned the plan may not deliver value for money. “The fundamental question is how you cut demand in the NHS, rather than just increasing spending,” they said.
“The allocation of funds to the NHS was contingent on them having a proper plan which delivers value for money."
The Treasury was reportedly unhappy about how it was pushed into accepting plans to pour an extra £20.5bn into the NHS in real terms by 2023-24.
May is keen to continue with the NHS reform plans to show her government has an agenda beyond Brexit. However, a senior Whitehall source told the FT that the launch was a "displacement activity" and that the prime minister’s focus should instead be on fixing the current standoff over the proposed Brexit deal.
The 133-page document outlines plans to further integrate health, social care and community services over the next decade as well as the increased funding for mental health services, as called for by NHS England head Sir Simon Stevens.
In an interview with CSW last year, Stephens said support for young people’s mental health services must be one of the focal points of the long-term plan.
“There is a higher rate of mental health distress and at the same time as that’s become part of the public dialogue and stigma has reduced, people are willing to come forward. So, we’ve got both of those going on at the same time,” he said.
“The consequence is that as a result we’re going to need a major ramp up under any scenario of young people’s mental health services.”
May said yesterday that the plan “marks an historic step to secure its future and offers a vision for the service for the next ten years, with a focus on ensuring that every pound is spent in a way that will most benefit patients”.
But writing in the Mail on Sunday, she also reiterated warnings from the Treasury last year that the NHS cash boost would mean there was “less room for manoeuvre” in other areas of public spending.