A PLANNED £1.6m funding cut to NHS mental health services in Oxfordshire will mean survivors of rape and sexual abuse may be denied access to vital support.

Director of Oxfordshire Sexual Abuse and Rape Crisis Centre, Lisa Ward, has become the latest to speak out against the proposals which would see Oxfordshire County County Council’s overall contribution to mental health services slashed from £8m to £6.4m over the next three years.

A public consultation on the proposed cuts will close at 11.59pm tonight.

The cuts would see services offered under the Oxfordshire Mental Health Partnership affected.

Speaking this week, Mrs Ward said the centre supports a large number of women who also have mental health difficulties, with studies showing up to 50 per cent of survivors have common mental health disorders, and 16 per cent are diagnosed with PTSD.

She added: “We know that the best possible form of support is often provided in partnership via a range of agencies in order to ensure intersecting needs are met.

“These cuts will mean that many of those who use our services will not get the support they need, which in turn will cause a knock-on level of demand on our already overstretched service.

“Furthermore, we know that these kind of cost-saving measures will not represent real term savings.

“Without access to timely mental health support and preventative resources there will undoubtedly be an increased demand on acute services, and other voluntary and statutory sector agencies across the county.”

Last week the six organisations forming the Oxfordshire Mental Health Partnership wrote an open letter to county councillors urging them to vote down the proposals.

The partnership is made up of Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust and five local mental health charities, which helps to provide joined up support for mental health sufferers across the county.

According to the trust referrals to Oxfordshire adult mental health assessment teams increased 36.6 per cent from 4,651 in 2014/5 to 6,354 in 2017/8.

Clinical director for Oxfordshire and West Mental Health at Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust Rob Bale, said: “The proposed funding reductions are very much against the national trend and direction for caring and supporting people’s mental health.

“As a system of organisations providing mental health care in Oxfordshire we’re working hard to raise the profile of mental health and reduce the stigma that can get in the way of people with mental health problems getting the treatment and help they need.

“We work hard to maintain an efficient and effective service. We’ve seen an increase in referrals, staff are being increasingly stretched. It’s incredibly challenging to deliver the evidence-based treatment needed.

“Changes in funding will mean changes in the services available. Mental health services do not just hand out medication and psychiatric consultation.

"It’s about a holistic approach involving social interventions that help people despite their past or ongoing experience of mental health issues.

"Removing a set of interventions and approaches will impact on people’s ability to access services and make it hard for them to live their lives as they wish to live them.”

Council bosses however have argued that the money saved will be reinvested to meet a rising demand in services for adults with special educational needs and to protect vulnerable adults from abuse and neglect.

Speaking on Thursday, a council spokesman said: "As in much of the county local government in Oxfordshire is facing unprecedented budget challenges, impacted further by growing demand for our key service areas.

"Oxfordshire County Council is also investing around £5m extra each year in adult social care to cater for the increased numbers and complexity of people accessing adult social care services due to population growth and people living longer."

To have your say visit https://consultations.oxfordshire.gov.uk/consult.ti/BudgetConsultation2019_20/consultationHome