The Chief Executive of Action Mental Health has said that support for mental health services across Northern Ireland are in a downward spiral. David Babington was speaking after Professor Roy McClelland described the crisis at Muckamore Hospital as the “the tip of the iceberg” and that the system was failing patients at the hospital.
David Babington said “The serious issues Professor McClelland raises about the state of mental health services in Northern Ireland have been building for some time. Just last month I was part of the delegation from the mental health sector to present to the NI Affairs Committee in Westminster. Our message was very clear – Northern Ireland has the highest incidence of mental health problems in the UK, and the lowest level of spending on mental health services. Fundamentally that is unsustainable.
“The share of health spending which is invested specifically on mental health services in Northern Ireland is 6%. In England that percentage is almost 12% yet our incidence of mental health problems is 25% higher. We have the highest suicide rate in the UK and the highest rates of medical prescription. We also have increased instances of mental ill health in children. How can we deal with the problem of mental health if we are not prepared to properly fund the services? If we don’t break that cycle it is self evident that the problems will continue to mount and that mental health provision will continue to be the forgotten service in our NHS locally.
“Mental health spending in Northern Ireland is in a downward spiral. When small amounts of additional money are provided they are used to fill the gaps. To deliver first class mental health services which can provide the support that so many people need and can deal with the severity of the issues Professor McClelland has raised, we need a genuine investment in the service, and ongoing support for the services, all delivered through an overarching mental health strategy for Northern Ireland.”