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Low NHS capacity in mental health leaves it beholden to private companies

The evidence of a massive increase in people in need of help from mental health services in the UK is now incontrovertible. NHS England reports 1.4 million people on the waiting list for care, with an additional eight million who would benefit from care, but who do not meet current criteria.  


Despite all the evidence in view, mental health services have received a small proportion of the extra funding from the government, with the vast majority of the extra funding going to tackling waiting lists for elective surgery.  

What money mental health services have received has gone to community services, such as helplines, and mental health support teams in school. Some money has gone into acute inpatient services, but to convert dormitory accommodation to single rooms, which although much needed should really have been carried out years ago and does nothing to increase capacity. 


In short, despite being under intense pressure for beds (see the Lowdown article: Mental health: data backs up concerns over services), NHS mental health services capacity has remained relatively unchanged over the past two years; as a result the massive increase in need can not be met by the NHS. 

As a part of a policy to move mental health services into the community, NHS mental health bed numbers have fallen from 23,208 in September 2011 to 18,179 in September 2019 before the pandemic began. Over the pandemic, capacity has changed little and stood at 18,493 in September 2021.  

Full story in The Lowdown, 6 February 2022

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