Plea for more cash to help Blackpool’s mental health crisis as figures show funding has dropped

A man in his 20s threatened to jump from flats in South Shore last year. He later came down safely.
A man in his 20s threatened to jump from flats in South Shore last year. He later came down safely.

The amount of cash being spent specifically on tackling Blackpool’s mental health crisis has dropped in recent years, The Gazette can today reveal.

In 2013/14, £34.8m was spent solely on mental health, including learning disabilities, which worked out at 15.1 per cent of the resort’s total health budget.

Coun Mark  Bamforth, who has battled agoraphobia for most of his life

Coun Mark Bamforth, who has battled agoraphobia for most of his life

This year, it was dropped to £33.9m – but the proportion has plummeted to just 11.8 per cent. In Fylde and Wyre this year, 12.41 per cent – or £30.67m – will be spent on mental health, figures released under Freedom of Information laws said.

Resort health bosses said the figures do not include funding for other services that can boost mental health, such as the Extensive Care Service, and said more cash is actually being spent.

But Coun Mark Bamforth, who has battled agoraphobia for most of his life, said funding should be closer to 25 per cent of the overall pot, considering one in four people will suffer from a mental health issue during their lifetime.

He said: “We need to be able to fund and provide the services. I’m just trying to highlight this for so many people who won’t speak out and are silently suffering. They should not have to.”

As funding levels have fallen, startling statistics have emerged, painting a drab picture of the wellbeing of residents in Blackpool.

The resort remains top nationally for antidepressant prescriptions, while more people arrived at Blackpool Victoria Hospital’s A&E suffering from a mental health crisis than anywhere else last year.

‘Mental health was a contributing factor’ in a number of 12-hour waits in the Emergency Department, documents also revealed recently.

Lancashire GP Dr David Wrigley, who is the British Medical Association Council’s deputy chairman, said: “Over the years, mental health services have suffered huge cuts to its budget and we have seen waiting times increase for many patients.”

The town’s transient population, poverty levels, and troubles with drugs and booze, have also been blamed.

A spokesman for Blackpool, and Fylde and Wyre Clinical Commissioning Groups, responsible for organising and paying for residents’ healthcare, said: “As a proportion of total budgets, these figures do not necessarily show a true reflection of funding towards mental health services for Fylde coast residents.

“The overall amount of money spent on commissioning enhanced services to benefit people’s mental health and wellbeing has actually increased.

“Over the last few years we have also benefited from additional funding streams which have contributed to this.

“This includes the Vanguard project, which has seen millions of pounds invested in improving services for some of the most vulnerable people in our area.

“These services, while not specifically focused on mental health, are aimed at improving people’s physical and mental wellbeing.

“Since 2013/14 both CCGs have also taken on the additional responsibility for commissioning of primary care services.

“This means local people have been able to benefit from additional resource to ensure access to mental health support via their GP.”

Coun Bamforth said faster and longer term support should also be offered, and claimed he was forced to see a therapist in his car – where he feels comfortable – outside the Woodlands in St Annes because he couldn’t get a home visit, despite his condition, which leaves him almost crippled with anxiety whenever he’s outside.

He said: “You don’t let somebody walk around with a broken leg.

“With mental health you might have a broken mind, or your mind is playing tricks, and it needs sorting just as much as a physical illness.

“Thirty years ago, there was a lot more funding and treatment. Now you get six one hour sessions.

“It’s not good enough.”

A spokesman from Lancashire Care said: “We are sorry to hear that Mr Bamforth has not had a positive experience of our services.

“We cannot go in to detail about the circumstances of individuals however we can confirm we are in direct contact with him about the concerns that he has raised and aim to reach a conclusion that is satisfactory to him.”