Pressure rapidly rising on mental health services

07 July 2017

In a letter to the Guardian, co-signed with a number of mental health organisations, we highlight the findings of our The State of the NHS Provider Sector report in which trusts tell us of the overwhelming pressure on services.

We, along with nine organisations, call for a three stage clear and unequivocal response to the demand, workforce and financial pressure felt by trusts that provide mental health services.

Commenting on the report findings, the director of policy and strategy of NHS Providers, Saffron Cordery, said: “These concerns point to a growing gap between the government’s welcome ambition for the care of people with mental health needs and the reality of services they are receiving on the front line.

“In some cases, core mental health service provision by mental health trusts is actually getting worse.

“NHS mental health trust leaders from up and down the country have told us how concerned they are about the future sustainability of services. Over 70% of mental health leaders told us that they expect demand for services overall to grow. When we look at Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and mental health crisis care that figure was 90%.

Mental health trust leaders are struggling to find sufficient staff to deliver their current services, let alone find new staff to extend, transform or innovate services.

“Having the right staff, with the right skills in the right place is the only way to improve mental health services on the ground. But mental health trust leaders are struggling to find sufficient staff to deliver their current services, let alone find new staff to extend, transform or innovate services. And too often trust leaders report that any extra funding is just used to fill existing gaps or to manage current demand, not improve service quality or access.  Unless action is taken to address these areas of concern then the government’s ambitions for transforming mental health care will not be met.”


The letter was first published in the Guardian on 7 July 2017. The full text of the letter can be seen below:



We have had repeated commitments from the very top of government to address the injustices faced by people with mental health problems.

We have welcomed the growing recognition of the distress caused, and the steps announced to achieve equity between the treatment of mental and physical health.

We have also welcomed the extra funding being made available and the new services and extended access being created.

However, the evidence is clear: pressure on day to day core services delivered by NHS mental health trusts is rapidly rising.

Survey findings from today’s State of the NHS Provider Sector report, published by NHS Providers, provide a stark warning about the ability of these trusts to deal with growing demand for services.

Only one in three is confident that they have enough staff. About one in ten say they are managing demand and planning for unmet need. Fewer still are confident that the commitment to increase investment in mental health will result in enough money reaching the front line.

The response must be clear and unequivocal.

First - we need to develop ways to ensure that money committed for mental health gets through to the NHS front line and is spent effectively on quality services.

Second - we must be realistic in the way we respond to growing demand, recognising that societal pressures are increasing the need for mental health services.

And third - worries over staffing gaps revealed in the report once again underline the urgency for a proper comprehensive workforce strategy, with specific proposals that will improve the experience of people with mental health problems so they receive the care that they need and deserve.


Chris Hopson, chief executive, NHS Providers

Caroline Abrahams, charity director, Age UK

Sarah Hughes, chief executive, Centre for Mental Health

Sean Duggan, chief executive, Mental Health Network

Paul Farmer CBE, chief executive, Mind

Mark Winstanley, chief executive, Rethink Mental Illness  

Prof Wendy Burn, president, Royal College of Psychiatrists

Rachel Power, chief executive, The Patients Association

Sarah Brennan OBE, chief executive, Young Minds



Read the press release for the launch of our second The State of the NHS Provider Sector report