The announcement of the government’s NHS expansion plan for mental health services comes seven months after a pledge announced by Theresa May when she promised to tackle the inequality between physical and mental health.
Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, said 21,000 new posts would be created at a cost of £1.3bn, with more trained nurses, therapists, psychiatrists, peer support workers and other mental health professionals. This would be major drive to train, retrain and retain mental health staff. The plan ambitiously aims to treat an extra 1 million people by 2021 and provide mental health services seven days a week, 24 hours a day, and properly integrate mental and physical health services.
“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,” said Hunt. “These measures are ambitious, but essential for delivering the high performing and well-resourced mental health services we all want to see.”
Welcome as the announcement of funding for 21,000 new posts in mental health is, the ACP is interested in knowing more about the details and although the numbers involved are impressive, they don’t really tell the full story of what is needed nor the realities of ensuring that we have enough professionals such as mental health specialists trained up to fill the potential positions. Many ACP members have seen their posts cut or downgraded and many NHS workers are leaving due to increased stress levels, poor working conditions and a pay freeze. Other professional bodies such as the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) also pointed out that NHS workers have not been financially supported with their training and have been affected by low pay. Hunt defended the continued pay rise cap for NHS workers, saying this was in part why the government could afford to recruit more people.
The training for child psychotherapists has been under severe pressure and uncertainty for the last few years and we urgently need commitment and clarity from government on support for training over the next 5 to 10 years if we are to have enough trained professionals to take up some of the new posts announced this morning. Child psychotherapists are a particularly important part of mental health services for helping children dealing with the most complex mental health problems. This new funding could make a fundamental difference to the lives of so many of those children and their families who currently struggle to find the right support for them, which is why it is so important that we allocate this new funding in the most effective way.
We would be interested in joining the conversation about how mental health services are resourced, and importantly, how children and young peope with complex mental health difficulties and disorders can have access to well trained specialists when they most need to.
You can read more about the announcement here