Thank you to everyone who has supported the trust and Oxfordshire Mental Health Partnership as we faced the prospect of £1.6m funding cuts to our Oxfordshire mental health budget.
We have been inspired by the support and dedication of all our colleagues and partners who voiced their concerns about the impact of the proposed budget changes.
Whilst we were pleased to hear that the Council has withdrawn its proposals to cut £1m from its contribution to the outcomes-based contract for mental health in Oxfordshire, we are now concerned to learn that Oxfordshire County Council has approved a £600,000 cut to the Section 75 funding for social care staff, even though the start date for the implementation of that has been deferred for a year until April 2020.
In recent weeks Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust and Oxfordshire Mental Health Partnership has been making representations to the Council making clear the impact that reduction would have, and offering to work with them to find alternatives which would have less impact on the care available for mental health service users, and which would, we believe, be much more cost effective for the Council.
We contacted elected members and colleagues at the Council, formally responded to the Council’s consultation and, with our Oxfordshire Mental Health Partnership colleagues and associated organisations, wrote to councillors setting out our reasons why that proposal should be withdrawn, emphasising the importance of integrated social work staff within adult mental health teams.
The people of Oxfordshire who responded to the consultation overwhelmingly objected to the County Council’s proposal to cut mental health funding, including the Section 75 agreement. Concerns about and objections to the Council’s proposed mental health budget cuts dominated the Council’s recent budget consultation.
Oxfordshire County Council has chosen to approve the £600,00 cut to S75 funding but to defer it for a year. The proposed cut of £300,000 in 20/21 and £300,000 in 21/22 will affect social care staff in community adult mental health teams and early intervention in psychosis teams within Oxfordshire Mental Health Partnership as well as the Forensic Service and, we estimate, have an impact on between 376 and 425 service-users. Given that the Council has now made the decision to proceed, albeit not for a year, we must now start to plan for the impact of this. We must be clear that service-users and staff will be supported through any changes ahead.
However, we will also continue to put forward alternative solutions that recognise the financial pressures on the Council but which do not impact so directly on the amount of care and support we can offer the people of Oxfordshire in the way this proposal does. We hope that by putting forward effective alternative approaches it may still be possible for this proposal to be reconsidered, even though we must at the same time plan for it and make clear what the consequences will be.
We remain convinced that this is a false economy which will directly impact the lives of a significant number of vulnerable people, and, in the long run, cost more than it saves, at a time when there is a growing recognition of the chronic, systemic underfunding of mental health care in the county.
We know our staff work together very hard to do their best for patients. We are grateful for the care and professionalism they show every day and we will continue to strive to provide a service which meets the needs of our community.