Impossible for government to meet mental health commitments without addressing staff shortfall

31 July 2017

 

Health Education England (HEE) has published Stepping Forward to 2020/21: Mental Health Workforce Plan for England.

One million extra people will have access to mental health services by 2021 under the plan which will see an additional 21,000 more mental health staff to increase patient access to services.

The report includes recommendations to transform the mental health workforce including:

 

Responding to mental health workforce plan for England, the chief executive of NHS Providers, Chris Hopson said:

“We welcome the scale and ambition of this plan to address NHS mental health workforce shortages. Without enough suitably skilled staff, it will be impossible for the Government to meet its commitment to treat more than one million more patients with mental health conditions by 2021.

“Like other parts of the NHS, mental health trusts are facing major staffing shortages and are struggling to cope with rapidly rising demand. Our State of the NHS Provider Sector report showed there are persistent staff shortages across all roles in all mental health specialties. Less than a third of the chairs and chief executives who responded to our mental health survey were confident that national workforce planning will deliver appropriate numbers of staff. They were especially concerned about recruiting enough mental health nurses and psychiatrists.

Less than a third of the chairs and chief executives who responded to our mental health survey were confident that national workforce planning will deliver appropriate numbers of staff.

“If the plan announced today is to be realised, these shortfalls will need to be addressed rapidly and effectively. This will be particularly challenging given the lag to recruit and train new staff. That is why it’s crucial that mental health services are fully supported to deliver this plan. As we have seen with other plans to boost NHS staffing numbers, staffing increases are not straightforward to deliver particularly in an environment where pay is frozen, there is significant uncertainty for EU staff and potential staff following Brexit and NHS roles are becoming more complex and stressful given growing demand, with a consequent impact on staff morale. Considering the age profile of the mental health workforce we will also need to particularly monitor the impact of removing nursing bursaries in the sector and take timely action to mitigate any risk.

“Finally, it’s vital that the funding, which has already been set aside, actually reaches the frontline – it is, after all, frontline trusts who have to recruit and retain the right mix of staffing to deliver these services.”   

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