The NHS could save at least £120m in England alone if it 'prescribed' volunteering to tackle mental health problems, according to Capital Volunteering.
The London charity, which uses volunteering opportunities to tackle mental health problems and social inclusion, has made the prediction on the basis of psychiatric admission figures.
It said that volunteering opportunities such as befriending schemes and employment services could dramatically cut the 103,000 annual psychiatric admissions, which cost £10,000 per admission. The charity expects it can cut this cost to £2,000 per admission.
Its report, Capital People, published today, highlights five cases in which volunteering helped combat mental ill health.
Cliff Prior, chief executive of Rethink, the severe mental illness charity, welcomed the idea but advised that the money should be ploughed back into mental health trusts. "We want to see this as a health gain, not just as a saving," he said.