The Government is defending cuts of more than $20 million to mental health programmes, saying it is providing more services and pumping more funds into mental health than ever before.

The cuts over four years - revealed in Budget papers released last week - include $4 million from mental health training, $4.2 million from the Like Minds Like Mine mental health campaign, $5 million from mental health research and $6 million from mental health promotion programmes.

Labour has slammed the cuts, saying the Government does not value community or public health initiatives.

Health Minister Tony Ryall yesterday defended the Government's track record on mental health, saying it was spending more than Labour ever did.

An extra $174 million had been allocated to mental health over the next four years, and the $20 million in savings had been made from contracts without sufficient uptake, expired contracts and uncommitted money that had been reinvested back into health.

The cuts did not pose any risk to frontline services and accounted for less than half of one per cent of the $1.2 billion spent on mental health every year, Mr Ryall said.

New mental health initiatives had been introduced last year, including $26 million for eating disorder services, and "several new and exciting" programmes would be announced shortly, he said.

Labour health spokeswoman Ruth Dyson said the health of New Zealanders would suffer as a result of the cuts.

"Health Minister Tony Ryall can claim all he wants that cuts to programmes like mental health training are going back into frontline services, or there is some kind of health 'switch', but it simply isn't true and the public knows that," she said.

"Under National there have been more than 80 cuts to patient services, and Budget documents reveal that the number of cuts will continue to increase."

- NZPA