Three-quarters of people suffering from mental illness are not getting treatment, a major report has warned.
The authors of the report, led by Professor Lord Layard, say the under-treatment of people suffering from mental illnesses is the most “glaring case of health inequality” in the UK.
They say mental illness now accounts for nearly half of all ill health suffered by people in Britain - and it can be more debilitating than some chronic diseases - but only a quarter of those involved are receiving treatment.
Effective psychological therapies exist but are not widely available, the report by the Mental Health Policy Group from the London School of Economics (LSE) found.
Two-fifths of patients suffering from anxiety or depression can recover if they are treated by means such as cognitive behavioural therapy. The authors say that if such treatments were more widely available, it would cost the NHS little or nothing because it would produce savings in other healthcare areas.
Mental illness can manifest itself in physical symptoms and the group of experts estimate such symptoms cost the NHS at least £10bn. Much of this money would be better spent on psychological therapies, they claim.
“Despite the existence of cost-effective treatments it (mental illness) receives only 13% of NHS expenditure,” they write.
“The under-treatment of people with crippling mental illness is the most glaring cause of health inequality in our country.”
Clare Gerada, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “We live in a stressful society and the number of patients with mental health problems presenting to GPs is on an upward spiral.
“Talking therapies have the potential to transform thousands of patients’ lives and we applaud Lord Layard and his team for their efforts to extend the programme further. This would be a major step forward, not only for patients, but for GPs and other health professionals working in mental health.”
Paul Farmer, chief executive of the charity Mind, said: “This is a hard-hitting report that shines a much-needed spotlight on mental health and the crucial need for it to receive a better deal from the NHS.
“The mental health of the nation will play an important role in our economic recovery and we know from the increased demand for our own services that this is a key time for investment in mental health. The next few months will prove especially critical, as clinical commissioning groups get to grips with the services they are responsible for and begin to understand the needs of their local community.
“It is vital that they take on board the recommendations in this report and engage with patients and local voluntary groups to help them commission effective and efficient mental health services.”