An alarming shortfall of specialist nurses is putting thousands of mental health patients in eminent danger.
Mental health services are under “serious pressure” due to a savage cut down of nurse training places at the same time as spiraling demand for care.
Experts branded mental health services “a car crash” and warned that Britain’s most vulnerable people were being “left to cope alone with self-harm and suicidal thoughts,” said last Friday night.
When specialist mental health nurses leave the service, the number of trainees coming in to fill their post has decline significantly as training places are cut.
According to a parliamentary written answer from health minister Dan Poulter, new figures illustrate that there have been an average around 500 scarcer mental health nurse training places over the course of this parliament as compared to the last parliament.
Demand has rocketed by 30% at the same time, experts say.
This has placed unparalleled pressure on mental health staff which detractors warn have become gradually incapable of coping with the demand for support.
Reports of growing caseloads and nurses working in mental health hospitals are precariously overstretched.
“These figures show we are heading for a drop off in the mental health workforce which we simply cannot afford. Through their short-sighted decisions, ministers have stored up trouble for the future, with vulnerable mental health patients at the highest risk. The approach of this Tory-led and Liberal Democrat Government has been one of failure and false economies. Our mental health workforce is already under serious pressure.” said Luciana Berger, Labor’s shadow minister for public health.
There are 3,300 lesser positions in mental health nursing, and 1500 fewer beds, than there were in 2010, the Royal College of Nursing warned.
“The loss of thousands of nurses and hundreds of doctors has impacted on some of the NHS’s most vulnerable patients in the hospital and in the community, leading to an increase in people experiencing crisis, as well as unnecessary hospital admissions and delayed discharges,” Ms Berger added.
Vowing that Labor will reverse the damage done to mental health services under the Tory-led Government, she added that the party would “invest in an additional 20,000 nurses by 2020, including mental health nurses”.
With the emergence of the new figures in training places, mental health thrust in the UK budgets were slashed by more than 8% in real terms over the course of this parliament, which total almost £600 million.
Care minister Norman Lamb insists budgets are “not the full picture”, adding, “Mental health care is given through a range of services including the voluntary sector.”
But the president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Prof Sir Simon Wessely, warned, “We are being asked to do more with less. We are campaigning and saying that people need to be more open about mental health problems and come forward earlier. But when they do, we find ourselves with minimal resources to treat them and they are getting short-changed.”
“A car crash,” is what Stephen Dalton, chief executive of the Mental Health Network called the current situation.
“The treatment gap for mental health is huge – 75% of people with mental health problems get no help at all.” And Paul Farmer, chief executive of mental health charity Mind, said. “Meanwhile, many more are being turned away from services when they need them the most, left to cope alone with self-harm and suicidal thoughts.”
“The next government will need to hit the ground running on mental health. We need to see a permanent increase in the NHS mental health budget of at least £1billion if we are to reverse the damage caused by years of neglect and recent cuts.”