The perverse incentive for health boards and commissioners to prioritise oncology or surgery above psychiatry is disturbing. Whenever we listen to the politicians and managers watch out for the word “priority” or “prioritisation”: it means rationing. And remember, the spending plans (outlined at the end – graphic|) dont apply outside of England. MIND can help, but it can only fill some of the gaps..
Mental health staff face unmanageable workloads, depleted teams and poor access to training, BMA research finds – with government promises of new recruits sounding ever more hollow. Keith Cooper reports
Bold pledges to recruit vastly more members of staff, as a means of easing the pressure in mental healthcare, are often deployed with aplomb by politicians.
More than 10,000 extra would be recruited this year, said the Conservative manifesto in May 2017.
Its opponents back then believed it was based on ‘thin air’, they told the BBC. Two months later, the Government’s official plan, Stepping Forward to 2021, pushed the figure up to 19,000 additional staff.
Leap forward to 2019 for an even more ambitious scheme. The NHS England Mental Health Implementation Plan called for a further 27,000 staff, a mix of psychologists, psychiatrists, nurses, social and peer and other support staff, to make up the ‘multidisciplinary’ approach it envisioned. An influx of new staff into mental health would certainly help the patients who suffer the traumatic, sometimes tragic, consequences of shortfalls and those in the service who struggle to cope with ever-rising demand….
…Mental health has been high on the political agenda for some years now, with bold promises from Government in recent times: more staff, more services, more funding, no patients being sent around the country for care, reduced waiting lists, fewer suicides. However, what we have seen outlined in this article and numerous academic and mainstream publications is essentially the opposite: longer waiting lists; increasing out-of-area placements; slimmed-down services that cannot cope with demand; and most worryingly a rising suicide rate for the first time in decades.
In microcosm, my own team (a general community team for people like you and I with mental health problems) has recently been audited as having 50 per cent too few staff. We knew that already. Will things be put right? Almost certainly not. If we were an oncology or paediatric team would they? Almost certainly yes.
…BMA recommendations on parity of resources, access and outcomes – what does it look like?
On funding: Clinical commissioning groups should double expenditure on mental healthcare. More should be spent on mental health wards, research, and in primary care and public health.
On access: Standards for access to services which are fully funded. Reviews of all trusts who place high numbers of patients in beds far from their homes.
On workforce: Realistic and measurable workforce goals. Targeted recruitment campaigns for the hardest-to-recruit sub-specialties, such as old-age psychiatry and learning-disability psychiatry.
On prevention: A cross-government body established to draw up a joint strategy on public mental health. National and local Government adopt a ‘mental-health in-all policy’; mental health impact assessments for all new policy proposals.