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Column 16th January 2019

Match up growth in our population with better NHS funding

Last week saw the publication of the long awaited long-term plan for the NHS. This plan puts aside an extra £2.3bn for mental health by 2023.

Yet in the same week the consultation closed on the proposal by Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) for budget cuts of £1.6 million over the next 3 years for people with serious mental illness. After receiving the feedback they have now reduced this to £600,000 and delayed it by a year.

The national policy is now to redress the lack of priority given to mental health over many years, yet OCC is still planning to cut nearly 10 percent from its overall contribution to NHS mental health services by 2022.

Oxfordshire has one of the lowest levels of mental health funding nationally.

The National Plan says hospitals and community services need to work more closely together and calls for more joint working between councils and the NHS, to prevent wrangles over funding, and needless long stays in hospital for the elderly.

Wrangles over funding seem to be happening in Oxfordshire already.

GP and community services have also been allocated £4.5bn of the national funding, yet our Health Centre has been starved of expansion for the last 5 years.

The plan proposes that wherever possible, illness should be treated by community or primary care with more patients treated at home, or closer to home.

Patients being treated at home means that more responsibility is likely to be placed on families and carers who may not have the all of the specialist skills required.

We know circumstances in our area where patients have been released from hospital to their own homes, and staff who should be providing the support can’t get from Oxford to Wantage to provide the care.

OCC says that they are investing around £5m extra each year in adult social care including care for the elderly but this is mainly compensating for population growth and increased longevity so won’t necessarily improve services at all.

Simon Stevens, head of the NHS, made clear that the national plan for the next decade depends on social care getting sufficient funding and this depends on the proposals on how to fund care of the elderly which should be in the long-delayed social care green paper.

We need sufficient GPs and other health staff to match the population growth and for our Community Hospital reopened to provide services close to our homes.


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