More than 340 psychiatrists have written to their local MP asking them to support an amendment to the Health and Care Bill requiring Government to publish regular and independently verified workforce numbers and projections.
The amendment would require the Secretary of State to report every two years on the number of health, social care and public health professionals in England and the number required to meet the demand for health and social care for the following 20 years.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists 2021 workforce census shows locum consultant psychiatrist numbers have increased by 43% since 2017 and the number of unfilled consultant posts has increased by 49.6%. The shortage of psychiatrists means many people are waiting longer than they should for specialist treatment.
With 1.4 million people waiting for mental health treatment, it is clear there are not enough staff to meet demand. The amendment to the Health and Care Bill would increase transparency and accountability on whether we are training enough doctors, nurses and social care staff to meet demand in the future.
Dr Adrian James, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said:
“More than 1.4 million people are waiting for specialist mental health support across England. A chronic shortage of psychiatrists and other skilled professionals means many are waiting far too long for treatment. One in 10 consultant psychiatrist posts in England is vacant because successive governments have failed to plan properly.
“This amendment places a legal obligation on the Secretary of State to report on future workforce needs. This is a critical first step to addressing the crisis in mental health services. Without this amendment, history shows our current workforce challenges will become even worse. I implore MPs to support this amendment. The nation’s mental health relies on long-term workforce planning.”
According to the NHS Benchmarking Network, mental health trusts across the UK spent an average of £8.1 million on bank and agency staff for adult inpatient services and £3.5 million for adult community services in 2020-21. An independent picture of projected staffing supply relative to projected demand is crucial to support more strategic spending decisions and provide long-term cost savings.
The amendment was made to the Health and Care Bill by Peers in the House of Lords earlier in March following a successful campaign by the Royal College of Psychiatrists and over 100 other organisations. The College is calling on MPs to support the amendment when the Bill returns to the House of Commons this week for consideration following its Third Reading in the House of Lords. The amendment and Bill will only become an Act if accepted by MPs.