- The Government has promised the extra posts by 2021 in a £1.3 billion drive
- Health Secretary says mental and physical health services will be integrated
- But the Royal College of Nursing questions whether NHS has the resources
- Jeremy Hunt says new posts are on top of 32,000 extra staff since 2010
- But mental health trusts in England have seen £150m cuts since 2013
The NHS will create 21,000 mental-health posts by 2021, the Government has revealed.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the aim was to treat an extra one million people over the next four years under one of the biggest boosts to mental care in Europe.
Campaigners have long argue mental health in the UK is woefully underfunded – and warn psychological conditions are not treated as seriously as physical health problems.
Now it has been promised that mental and physical health services will be integrated for the first time in a £1.3 billion drive to provide services seven days a week, 24 hours a day.
However, a health body has questioned whether enough people could be trained in such time, and if there are the resources to do so.
The £1.3 billion drive promises mental health services seven days a week, 24 hours a day
The plan will see ‘dramatically’ increased numbers of trained nurses, therapists, psychiatrists, peer support workers and other mental health professionals, according to the Department of Health.
Mr Hunt said: ‘As we embark on one of the biggest expansions of mental health services in Europe it is crucial we have the right people in post – that’s why we’re supporting those already in the profession to stay and giving incentives to those considering a career in mental health.’
Plans do not add up
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said the Government’s policies do ‘not to add up’.
Chief executive Janet Davies said: ‘If these nurses were going to be ready in time, they would be starting training next month.
‘But we have seen that the withdrawal of the bursary has led to a sharp fall in university applications and we are yet to see funding for additional places.
‘There is already a dangerous lack of workforce planning and accountability and this report is unable to provide detail on how the ambitions will be met.
‘It is clear the Government will need to work hard just to get back to the number of specialist staff working in mental health services in 2010.
‘Under this Government, there are 5,000 fewer mental health nurses and that goes some way to explaining why patients are being failed. The NHS needs to see hard cash to deliver any plans.’
Earlier this year it was revealed mental health trusts in England had their funding cut by £150m over the past four years, according to BBC Panorama and think tank the Health Foundation.
Hunt: There has been an expansion already
HALF OF MENTAL HEALTH UNITS OUT OF DATE OR UNSAFE
Thousands of mental health patients are being treated in unsafe hospital units, warn inspectors.
Two in five mental health services inspected in the last three years have not met safety requirements, the Care Quality Commission said.
Some 40 per cent of NHS services and 39 per cent of private units were classed either as ‘inadequate’ or ‘requires improvement’ when it came to safety, the inspectors said in their scathing report.
They warned patients are often treated in out-of-date wards, with insufficient staff and many blind spots where they can harm themselves or others. And they said thousands are locked up for years in asylum-like units that ‘have no place’ in modern healthcare.
Some institutions are still putting men and women in mixed-sex wards – a practice experts said should have been eliminated decades ago.
Mental health care has been identified as a major priority by Theresa May, who called shortfalls in services a ‘burning injustice’.
Mr Hunt, responding to Mrs Davies’s comments, told BBC News: ‘Well, I think it’s an ambitious target but I think the mistake health secretary after health secretary from different parties and different governments have made is that they’ve thought “If you want to solve a problem, you put the money in”, and money of course is very important, but you’ve got to have the people.
‘So we are investing more in training up people – we actually have 32,000 more people providing mental health care than we did in 2010, so there’s been a big expansion already – but today we are announcing another 21,000 posts, which will mean a lot more money going into training.’
He said 2,000 posts would be for children and young people’s provision, and another 4,600 extra nursing staff working in crisis care.
Professor Wendy Burn, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, which helped devise the plan, said: ‘As medically trained doctors, psychiatrists are vital to the treatment of mental illness.
‘You would expect to see a consultant if you had cancer and the same applies for mental health.
‘The 570 extra consultants promised in this strategy will be crucial to delivering the high-quality, robust mental health services of the future.’
Retaining staff and encouraging some of the 4,000 psychiatrists and 30,000 trained mental health nurses not substantively employed by the NHS to return to the profession will form a major part of the drive.