The Liberal Democrats have pledged further investment of more than £2bn in mental health if they were to win the general election.
Launching its “manifesto for the mind” today, the party said it planned to put an extra annual £250m towards mental health in 2016-17 and 2017-18, which would increase to £500m more per year for the following three years.
“In government again, we will continue to put mental health front and centre of the political debate”
The Liberal Democrats said the total of more than £3bn extra funding in England over the course of the next parliament would be used to “revolutionise” children’s and adult’s mental health.
They have specifically pledged £250m per year to be set aside for pregnant women and mothers with depression.
This money would be used to create eight new mother and baby units providing inpatient care, and 40 new community services to help new mothers adjust to looking after a new born.
Access to talking therapies would also be a focus for investment, with a provisional target of 25% of those who might benefit from this service being seen.
Mental health crisis care would also be improved by introducing new waiting time standards in emergency departments, in the community and for crisis phone lines.
A “world leading” research fund for mental health would also be set up with £50m to help improve treatments, while a public health campaign promoting steps to improve mental health – equivalent to the “five a day” campaign on healthy eating – would be introduced.
Training for all frontline public service professionals, including in schools and universities, on mental health would also be a priority for the party.
Party leader Nick Clegg said: “In the Coalition government’s final budget we secured more than a billion pounds to revolutionise services for children and young people, alongside the first ever waiting times standards and a plan to roll out talking therapies across England.
“It’s great to see parties pledging to increase funding for mental health but actions speak louder than words”
“But we cannot and must not rest there….As this document sets out, in government again, we will continue to put mental health front and centre of the political debate,” he said.
However, the party has been warned that the funding pledge follows years of cuts to these services, putting mental health nurses under additional strain.
Alan Simpson, professor of collaborative mental health nursing at City University London, said: “It’s great to see parties pledging to increase funding for mental health but actions speak louder than words.
“Over the last parliament there was an 8% cut in funding for mental health services,” he said. “Community services are closing and contracting. Caseload sizes are increasing making it harder for mental health nurses and other staff to provide the level of support and skilled input required.”
“The next government needs to show some joined up thinking around these issues if they really want to improve the lot of people with mental health problems,” he added.
“The next government needs to show some joined up thinking around these issues if they really want to improve the lot of people with mental health problems,” he said.
The Liberal Democrats said the additional £2bn funding pledged today would come from a variety of sources.
Around £700m would come from restricting capital gains tax, applied to profits from selling shares in a company. This would include a requirement for entrepreneurs to own a larger proportion of shares in a company before they can qualify for relief against this tax, and introducing a lower threshold at which the tax was applied.
A further £200m would be raised by abolishing the Conservatives’ controversial “shares for rights” scheme, which provides tax exemption on staff shares if they give up some work rights.
Further mental health cash would be found from altering the formula used to distribute money to the UK’s devolved countries, and beyond 2017 investment would come from “increasing NHS budgets as the Liberal Democrats will allow NHS funding to grow in line with the economy”.