FINANCE: A strategic health authority has asked staff to plan for a cut of nearly two-thirds in its mental health research and analysis budget to make up a shortfall on cancer projects.

NHS London has asked staff to plan for a programme budget of £1.3m for this financial year, compared with £3.5m spent in 2011-12. The programme budget is given to the SHA by the Department of Health to fund research and analysis programmes.

Documents obtained by HSJ show the SHA’s delivery group told mental health leads to prepare for the year without the “£2.2m which was required for the cancer programme”.

The papers said this was because of “a gap in the funding” for cancer in 2012-13.

The documents suggest the mental health work might now focus solely on high priority projects, like the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies programme and introducing a mental health tariff.

A senior figure in the London mental health sector told HSJ: “This is a disgraceful stripping of mental health bundle monies to fund a specialty which already has a larger proportion of the cash.”

The decision to plan for a transfer of the £2.2m was signed off by the SHA’s delivery group earlier this month, although a final decision was expected to be taken this week.

A spokeswoman for NHS London said no final decision on the plans had been approved.

A statement from the SHA said: “We have said publicly many times that improving care for people with cancer in London is an absolute priority.  This means making some difficult decisions.”