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Cost-of-living crisis poses a threat of pandemic proportions on mental health, psychiatrist warns

THE cost-of-living crisis poses a threat of pandemic proportions to the nation’s mental health, the head of the Royal College of Psychiatrists said today.

Dr Adrian James warned that pressure on the NHS could reach unprecedented levels as people try to cope with the rising price of food, fuel and other essentials.

He said there is a £300 million black hole in mental health funding caused by inflation and called for a cash injection into services.

Addressing the college’s international congress in Edinburgh, Dr James said: “Food insecurity, fuel poverty, debt and the loneliness and isolation that come with [rising costs] are a hard reality for millions of people.

“Much like with the pandemic, those already living with a mental illness are more likely to suffer the consequences of the looming economic downturn, which will be felt for years to come.

“We must be ready to offer them the specialist high-quality care we know can make a difference.”

Dr James called for “a cash boost of £300 million to match inflation and deliver the investment package promised in the NHS long-term plan.”

Figures show that mental health referrals hit record levels of 4.3m last year in England and there is a backlog of 1.4m people waiting to start treatment.

Dr James said the extra money needed can be partly taken from the recently announced £1.5 billion for local systems — but further funding will be necessary next year.

“NHS staff are continuing to make personal sacrifices to help their patients, having worked tirelessly for two years,” he said.

“Funding for mental health services needs to be prioritised as we’re being called upon to overcome yet another unprecedented challenge.”

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