By: George Owen

Is UK Mental Healthcare At Breaking Point?

Despite repeated pledges of additional funding and staff, mental healthcare is in a full-blown crisis according to a new report by the British Medical Association.

‘Measuring Progress: Commitments to Support and Expand the Mental Health Workforce’, conducted in partnership with the Royal College of Nursing and the Association of Clinical Psychologists UK, surveyed over 1,000 doctors, mental health nurses, and psychiatrists on the current state of mental healthcare in the UK.

‘Unmanageable’ 

According to the study, 40% of the country’s mental health workforce currently find their workload ‘unmanageable’. 47% of doctors said they frequently work with at least one colleague missing. 70% of respondents across all three professions said that work with ‘vital members of staff missing most or all of the time’.

The report’s findings are in stark contrast to the ongoing Government promises to increase both staff numbers and funding for mental health services. In 2017, the Conservative government pledged 10,000 more staff by 2020 – before raising that number to 19,000 shortly afterwards. In the 2019 election, the Conservatives promised an additional 27,000 staff.

In reality, mental health workers say that staff numbers have either stayed the same or fallen. The BMA survey says that over 7,000 nurses and health visitors have left the NHS over the past decade and that vacancy rates for psychiatry jobs have doubled.

Meanwhile, the demand for mental health services is growing even greater.

‘Cannot Cope’

BMA mental health policy lead, Andrew Molodynski, says that the current state of mental healthcare is ‘essentially the opposite’ of what has long been promised in Government pledges.

“[There are] 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,” he said.

The BMA has called for ‘real parity’ in NHS spending, stating that 25% of the overall NHS budget needs to go towards both primary and secondary mental healthcare if the situation of the industry is to be reversed.

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