Author Lauren Howells

In what the Department of Health has called “one of the biggest expansions of mental health services in Europe”, the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has announced that 21,000 new mental health worker posts will be created in the NHS in England.

According to the government, this will enable an extra 1 million people to be treated by 2021 and will “tackle the historic imbalance in workforce capacity”.  

Although the news has been welcomed by some, the Royal College of Nursing reportedly responded with concern, as they feared that the report was “unable to provide detail on how the ambitions will be met.”

For those with a mental illness who have struggled to get the support that they need, the news that the government is investing more money in an area which many believe is grossly underfunded, will no doubt be welcomed with open arms. 

What exactly are the government proposing? 

An extra £1.3 billion to “transform mental health services” 

The government say that this money will be used to, amongst other things, provide services 7 days a week, 24 hours a day.

It is also pledging to integrate mental and physical health services.

The government’s plan sets out how the NHS will increase mental health professionals, including trained nurses, psychiatrists and therapists, in order to ensure that the plans to treat an extra 1 million patients by 2021 can indeed be met.

“We want people with mental health conditions to receive better treatment, and part of that means having the right NHS staff,” Jeremy Hunt said.

“We know we need to do much more to attract, retain and support the mental health workforce of the future. Today is the first step to address this historic imbalance in workforce planning.” 

As well as creating 2,000 additional posts within the child and adolescent mental health services, the plan also says that there should be 4,800 additional posts within crisis care and 2,900 more health professionals working within adult talking therapies.

Government announces plans for more mental health services

The plan also includes additional perinatal mental health support, as well as an increase in the number of people working to support people at risk of psychosis.

Additionally, the plan talks about making improvements in how employers retain their existing mental health staff, an “action plan” to attract more clinicians to work in mental health and a campaign to try and encourage trained mental health nurses, not employed by the NHS, to return to the profession.

Decrease in mental health nursing posts since 2010

According to an article in The Guardian in November 2016, the number of NHS mental health nurses working in England had fallen from 45,384 in 2010 to 38,774 in mid-2016.

In response to the government’s plan, Royal College of Nursing chief executive and general secretary, Janet Davies, said: 

“It is clear the government will need to work hard just to get back to the number of specialist staff working in mental health services in 2010. Under this government, there are 5,000 fewer mental health nurses and that goes some way to explaining why patients are being failed.”