Mental health services failing to meet rising demand, TUC report reveals

By agency reporter
October 23, 2018

Mental health services are failing to meet rising demand, according to a new TUC report.

The report – which features new analysis by the NHS Support Federation – shows that in the last five years the number of patients accessing mental health services in England has risen by a third (540,000).

However, over the same period, the number of mental health nurses, doctors and beds in the country has fallen.

The research reveals that:

  • In 2013 there was one mental health doctor for every 186 patients accessing services. In 2018 this ratio had worsened to one for every 253 patients.
  • In 2013 there was one mental health nurse for every 29 of patients accessing services. In 2018 this had worsened to one for every 39 patients.
  • The number of beds for mental health patients in England has slumped by nearly 3,000 (13 per cent) since 2013.

The picture varies across English regions. However, in every part of the country patient demand is outstripping available beds and staff leaving services over-stretched.

The TUC says the unprecedented squeeze on health service funding and health workers’ pay are key reasons behind the fall in capacity. 

NHS mental health trusts have seen their income cut by more than a £100 million in real-terms since 2012. 

And the clampdown on pay in the NHS has hit staffing levels, with more than one in 10 mental health posts currently vacant.

Unions are calling on the Chancellor to use this month’s budget to:

  • Increase Department of Health spending to 5 per cent – the amount the IFS and Health Foundation say is required to achieve significant improvements in health outcomes.
  • Reverse the cuts to local authority and school funding that have also impacted on local mental and public health services, particularly for children.

Mental illness is estimated to cost the UK economy between £74 billion and £99 billion a year.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The Prime Minister promised to tackle the ‘burning injustice’ of inadequate treatment for mental illness. But years of underfunding has created a staffing crisis in mental health services and a huge shortage of beds.

“This month’s Budget must provide urgent funding to the NHS, schools and councils. They desperately need more resources to help people struggling with their mental health.”

The analysis covers all of England’s NHS Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships (STPs).  These are the 44 areas where local NHS organisations and councils draw up proposals to improve health and care in the areas they serve.

Of England’s 44 NHS STPs:

  • More than three-quarters (36) have seen a fall in the number of available beds for people struggling with their mental health.
  • More than half (23) have seen a fall in the number of mental health nurses (including both in-patient and community nurses).
  • Half (22) have seen a fall in the number of doctors working with mental health patients.

* Read the report Breaking Point: the crisis in mental health funding here

* Trades Union Congress


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