Northern Ireland Audit Office Report: “Mental Health Services in Northern Ireland”

Action Mental Health’s Chief Executive, David Babington has expressed extreme concern at the findings highlighted in the Northern Ireland Audit Office Report: “Mental Health Services in Northern Ireland” which has just been published. While many of the findings are sadly unexpected, the report emphasises the very stark reality for local mental health services. The report clearly states “the successful implementation of NI’s 10-year Mental Health strategy is at risk without sustained, additional investment.” The report also shows that spending on mental health here is around 32% less per capita than in other parts of the UK, and estimates that we would need to spend around £190m extra per annum to bring us in line with elsewhere in the UK. Conversely however, the report also stated that Mental Health’s share of overall health budget has fallen between 2010-11 & 2019-20.  Following this theme it suggests a funding gap in the region of £8m in 2019-20 for vital CAMHS services

Overall, the report shows that even with the highest need, Northern Ireland still has the lowest level of mental health funding across the British Isles. This is undoubtedly contributing to many people not receiving the support they need in a timely fashion and the report also shows how waiting lists have increased since pre-pandemic. At the time of writing 16,000 people were on a waiting list. Around half of those on mental health waiting lists wait longer than the nine and 13-week target standards, with particular issues identified in relation to psychological therapies.

It should also be noted that the figures quoted in this report are based on previous years and will not take account of the current budgetary challenges facing services in Northern Ireland. Organisations in the voluntary sector, such as Action Mental Health, have already had to reduce services across Northern Ireland since April 2023, due to severe budget cuts already imposed and further, future uncertainty.  These cuts in the voluntary sector will only be compounded by further reductions in statutory services as we move forward. In addition the report also doesn’t cover the undoubted impacts the cost of living crisis is having on the mental health of our population right now.

David Babington commented “The current situation is untenable, we need urgent action to see local Government restored and significant additional funding from Westminster to address these issues which are impacting on the lives of thousands of people across Northern Ireland, many of whom are really  struggling and extremely vulnerable.”

You can read the full report here.

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