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Budget 2018: Surprise mental health services announced as NHS spending increases £20bn

·Finance and news reporter
Chancellor Philip Hammond announced increased funding for NHS mental health services. Pic: PA
Chancellor Philip Hammond announced increased funding for NHS mental health services. Pic: PA

Chancellor Philip Hammond on Monday made the surprise announcement that mental health services will be a key beneficiary of the NHS’s £20.5bn funding increase.

The soon-to-published 10-year NHS plan will see the introduction of a new mental health crisis service, which will see teams placed in accident and emergency units across the country, and the introduction of a 24-hour mental health crisis hotline.

Children and young people’s crisis teams will be available in all parts of the country, while funding will be increased for mental health ambulances.

“There are many pressing demands on NHS funding, but few more pressing than the needs of those who suffer from mental illness,” Hammond said.

“These new services will see people suffering from a crisis, young or old, able to get the help they need—ending the stigma that has forced too many to suffer in silence, and ending too the tragedy of too many lives lost to suicide.”

In June, prime minister Theresa May promised to increase funding of the NHS by 3.4% annually, calling the service the “government’s number one spending priority.” On Monday, Hammond noted that the government had as such already made its big spending choice before the autumn budget was delivered.

“We are proud to have made this extraordinary commitment to funding our NHS, a precious institution that has been nurtured for most of its life by Conservative governments,” he said.

By the 2023-2024 financial year, the NHS in England is set to receive about £20.5bn ($26bn) in additional financing each year.

British doctors warned as recently as last week, however, that the additional £20bn in funding would not be enough to tackle the country’s healthcare crisis. The head of the British Medical Association, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, warned that the NHS was at risk of falling behind its European counterparts. The head of the National Audit Office, Amyas Morse, has made similar warnings.

While the Commonwealth Fund, a US-based health foundation, ranked the British health service as better than 10 other well-off countries in 2017, the UK currently spends less on health as a percentage of GDP than similarly sized economies like Germany and France.

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