News

07.07.17

Local MH workforce plan needed as majority of trusts worried about demand

Fewer than one in three leaders of mental health trusts are confident that they have enough staff to deliver existing services, let alone expand or improve services, a survey released today has found.

In a major review of the sector conducted by NHS Providers, trust leaders warned that recent commitments to mental health by the prime minister were at risk of being undermined as the effect of rapidly increasing demand and strapped budgets hit home.

The report, called ‘The State of the NHS Provider Sector’, also warned that more than 70% of trust leaders expected demand to increase this year, something that leaders argue is overwhelming core mental health services across the country.

And just one in 10 respondents believed that their local trust was managing demand and planning for unmet need for mental health services, including for children and young people.

To improve the situation for mental health, NHS Providers has called for more realism about what can be achieved for services under rising demand as well as demanded the government draw up a robust workforce strategy at a local level.

“Unless action is taken to address these areas of concern then the government’s ambitions for transforming mental health care will not be met,” said Saffron Cordery, director of policy and strategy at NHS Providers, who sits on NHE’s Editorial Board.

“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 frontline.”

Cordery also revealed that in some cases, core mental health service provision by mental health trusts is actually getting worse.

“Having the right staff, with the right skills in the right place is the only way to improve mental health services on the ground,” she continued. “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.”

To fix this, the NHS Providers director said the NHS firstly needs to find a way to ensure money gets through to the frontline and is spent effectively.

“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,” continued Cordery.

“And third – worries over staffing gaps revealed in the survey once again underline the urgency for a proper comprehensive workforce strategy.”

Top Image: Dominic Lipinski, PA Wire

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