The Liberal Democrats have adopted a policy of moving to ‘equality of funding’ for mental health services – a pledge that, if enacted, would move around £13bn of funding into mental health from the acute sector.

The party adopted a new policy at its annual conference in Glasgow today, expanding on its commitment to “parity of esteem” for mental health.

The policy aims to move the NHS “towards equality of funding to reflect the respective health need”. It will now be included in the Lib Dems’ “pre manifesto” document, which will set out the party’s position on a range of policy areas ahead of next year’s general election campaign.

HSJ understands the wording came from Paul Burstow, a Lib Dem former minister who is still close to the development of party policy on health.

Mr Burstow has taken a personal interest in mental health policy, and has chaired a commission on the subject for the Centre Forum thinktank.

In the preface to one of the commission’s reports, Mr Burstow wrote: “We believe the case for spending to be rebalanced towards mental health is overwhelming.

“For example, poorly managed long term mental and physical health problems cost the NHS £13bn a year.”

HSJ understands the Lib Dems believe much of this cost is borne in the acute sector. Moving to “equality of funding” would involve spending the money currently used for crisis acute care for mental health patients to preventative mental health services.