• Birmingham and Solihull CCG rejected Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health FT’s request for additional community services funding 
  • Request followed fears service was unable to meet demand
  • Coroners in Birmingham sent commissioners letter of warning over underfunding of region’s mental health services last year

Commissioners in the West Midlands have rejected a request for additional mental health funding, despite an increase in case loads and concerns raised over patient safety.

Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Trust has had a request for additional funding for its community mental health services rejected by Birmingham and Solihull Clinical Commissioning Group.

The news comes despite coroners in Birmingham issuing a warning letter last year stating the underfunding of the area’s mental health services was putting patients at risk. This followed the deaths of eight patients. 

According to the trust’s most recent board papers, former chief executive John Short wrote to the CCG in February requesting additional funding for its community mental health teams, as the provider was “concerned that it did not have the necessary resources to meet all the demands placed on it”.

The trust declined to share its letter with HSJ. However, CCG governing body papers, published in April, said the trust claimed to be “experiencing increased case loads with higher acuity of patients”.

The papers continued: “[The] community team’s workforce issues [have] impacted on waiting times and there has been an increase in case loads above the recommended [Care Quality Commission] and Department of Health (DoH) numbers.

“Community Mental Health Teams (CMHTs) have seen a 49 per cent increase in complaints from 2015 to 2018 and a 27 per cent increase in serious incidents from 2016.

“The trust has stated that CMHTs struggle to manage discharges to primary care effectively due to the lack of shared care arrangements and reluctance of GPs to have patients who require ongoing prescribing transferred back to primary care.”

In its board papers, the commissioners acknowledged the risk to patient safety and said “a more proactive approach should be taken by the trust with a review of pathways and packages of care”.

The NHS long-term plan, published in January, outlined community and core mental health services funding as a priority. 

Under planning guidance for 2019-20, CCGs have been told they must use additional baseline funding for mental health to “stabilise” core adult and older adult CMHTs and services for those with complex needs. 

In a joint statement, a spokeswoman for Birmingham and Solihull CCG and Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Foundation Trust said: “In recent years we have seen our mental health services experiencing increasing demand and complexity of case loads, and this is in the context of constraints on public funds.

“[We] are committed to working together, in collaboration with our local partners, to develop a mental health system that will seek to address the demand and capacity issues we are facing and improve access and outcomes for our service users and their families.

“Our organisations meet regularly to agree how we move jointly to a sustainable model of mental health care, and we look forward to continuing our excellent relationship for the benefit of the people of Birmingham and Solihull.”