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$45m budget blow out on Canterbury's mental health services

Canterbury's mental health needs have caused a $45m budget blow out.

Canterbury's DHB has overspent on mental health services by $45 million. 

Figures released to the Labour Party show the Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) was funded for $207 per person ($112.5m) for mental health services in 2016-17, but spent $290 per person ($157.6m) instead. 

The $45m shortfall meant less funding was spent on other services, CDHB general manager Carolyn Gullery said.

Labour leader Andrew Little says there is a "big gap that has to be filled" for mental health funding in Canterbury.

Despite the additional spending, staff struggled to meet the demand for mental health treatment. Hospital services for adult and child, adolescent and family patients have been close to, or over, capacity since 2012.

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Every month some adult patients slept in other wards as there were not enough beds to accommodate them.

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"The workload associated with high numbers of patients under care is putting significant pressure on clinical staff and compromising quality," a May CDHB agenda report said.

Children and adolescents assessed as having less urgent cases were waiting an average of four months for a second appointment.

The Ministry of Health's target was for 95 percent of patients to be seen within two months. 

Dr Harith Swadi, clinical director for child adolescent and family specialist mental health services, said they had to prioritise urgent and emergency cases. 

Some cases "need to be seen" within the same day or week of a referral. 

GPs and community services could do more for non-urgent cases,Swadi said. 

"Currently there's nothing available that quite meets the requirements for [these children]." 

Ministry of Health chief adviser for DHB funding and planning John Hazeldine said the CDHB was expected to provide high-quality services within the funding provided.

"Over the past eight years Canterbury's standard funding has increased by $331 million, taking their total funding for 2016/17 to $1.4 billion." 

Hazeldine said the Ministry provided an additional $106m since 2011/12 to help with "earthquake-related pressures, including for mental health". 

Funding for 2017/18 would be revealed in next week's Budget. 

Labour leader Andrew Little said the $45m overspend on mental health showed there was a "big gap that has to be filled".

He visited specialist medical centre Youth 298 in Christchurch on Friday.

"We know there's been a shortfall and we know there's been an elevated level of demand in Canterbury and even the additional money that was provided last year isn't enough to keep up with the level of demand for mental health services in Canterbury," Little said. 

Labour recently announced it would spend $43m to support specialist mental health teams in medical centres at eight sites, including Christchurch, for a two-year pilot. 

Health spokesman David Clark said the initiative would be additional to the DHB's annual operating budgets.

 

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