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Funding plea from Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust over ‘unacceptable’ local mental health services

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MENTAL health services are in desperate need of better funding from the government, a local NHS boss has pleaded.

Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust’s chief executive, Ron Shields, has called for more money to be pumped into mental health to deal with shortages in staffing and resources, writes David George, of the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

According to Mr Shields, waiting lists for mental health wards are growing because NHS trusts do not have the funding to get people through the doors.

Ron Shields of Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust
Ron Shields of Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust

He said: “The funding of mental health services has never kept pace with the demand for it, and has been secondary in many ways to other NHS services.

“We need to be given the money we need, in order that we can have adequate staffing and resources.

“There are seriously ill people who cannot get into mental health wards simply because there aren’t any more beds to go around. That is unacceptable to me.”

Mr Shields added that the ideal place to provide care is in people’s homes, but there can come a time when 24/7 support is required.

The news follows a Care Quality Commission (CQC) report into the trust’s acute mental health services in February, which concluded that Southern Health ‘requires improvement’.

The chief executive admitted that this was the case, and has submitted an action plan to the CQC in response.

But he believes that part of this improvement could be sparked by better funding – which could also take some of the pressure off other services.

Mr Shields said: “The issue for me is the balance between mental health and physical health funding. I am extremely passionate about mental health services but don’t believe we should be separated from physical illness.

“People who suffer from long-term mental health conditions have worse physical health, and deteriorating physical conditions impact people’s mental health.

“In the last year there has been quite a significant rise in the investment into mental health and that has been a positive improvement, but there is still so much more we could be doing.

“That can only happen if we have staff coming through the system and more resources to use.”

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