At the current rate the NHS is on course to miss its 2021 target of adding another 21,000 mental health staff to the workforce, according to an analysis by the Labour Party.
Using NHS Digital data, Labour says that if the increase in mental health staff continues at the current rate of growth it will miss its target by over 15,000 workers.
It comes as a survey showed that nearly all GPs fear that young patients may come to harm because of long waiting times for mental health services.
In July 2017 then health secretary Jeremy Hunt announced a big expansion of NHS mental health services promising:
- 2,000 additional nurses, consultants and therapist posts in child and adolescent mental health services;
- 2,900 additional therapists and other allied health professionals for adult talking therapies;
- 4,800 additional posts for nurses and therapists working in crisis care settings.
The plan also set out to encourage psychiatrists and mental health nurses not substantively employed by the NHS to return to return to work and to boost retention figures for existing staff.
But the latest figures show that the total number of staff working in mental health trusts is only 1,524 higher than in August 2017.
Labour’s analysis also found that:
- The total number of mental health nurses has fallen in every month this year;
- The number of psychiatrists has increased only 3 per cent over 12 months.
According to the latest NHS Digital Workforce Statistics, the total number of staff working in mental health rose by 6,747 between August 2017 and August 2018. Labour says this figure includes around 5,000 staff who have been reclassified as mental health staff as a result of community provider trusts being taken over by mental health trusts.
Barbara Keeley MP, Labour’s shadow minister for mental health, said: ‘This Government’s failure to act on the mental health workforce crisis could threaten to turn the burning injustice of mental ill health that the Prime Minister pledged to tackle into a raging inferno.
‘Mental Health’s share of the wider NHS budget will not increase over the next three years so services will continue to suffer as clinical staff leave in greater numbers, unless the NHS long-term plan addresses the current workforce shortfall.’
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: ‘Mental health is a key priority for the Government. We are transforming services with record amounts of funding, with the NHS spending almost £12bn on mental health in 2017/18.
‘But we want to go further, which is why the Prime Minister has made parity between physical and mental health a priority for our long-term plan for the NHS supported by at least an additional £2bn a year.’