The College has co-signed a letter from professional bodies in health and care, renewing calls on the government to urgently provide funding for NHS staff mental health and wellbeing hubs.
The hubs are being forced to close despite NHS staff sickness absence figures showing a worsening mental health crisis in the NHS workforce.
NHS staff sickness absence figures for November 2022, published today by NHS Digital, reveal that anxiety, stress, depression, and other psychiatric illnesses, continue to be the most reported reason for sickness absence amongst NHS staff, accounting for more than 526,900 full time equivalent staff days lost and 24 per cent of all sickness absence.
A British Psychological Society analysis of NHS Digital sickness absence data over 12 months (November 2021 to October 2022) has revealed nearly a quarter of absences due to sickness (an average of 23 per cent) were due to anxiety, stress, depression and other psychiatric illness.
Furthermore, the data shows mental health reasons account for a shocking 6.2 million full time equivalent staff days lost between November 2021 and October 2022, with huge cost implications for use of more expensive agency staff.
Government funding for 40 NHS staff mental health and wellbeing hubs, which were launched in February 2021 to give struggling NHS and social care staff rapid access to mental health support from dedicated local mental health services, ended on 31 March 2023.
This has left the workforce without vital support, with four hubs already forced to close and the remaining facing an uncertain future, raising serious concerns for staff wellbeing and patient safety.
Alongside other professional bodies in health and care, the College has signed an open letter to the Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay, MP. The letter calls on the government to provide a minimum of one year’s transitional ring-fenced funding for NHS staff mental health and wellbeing hubs, so they can continue as a vital lifeline for NHS and social care staff.
Signatories to the letter include the British Psychological Society, the Royal College of Nursing, NHS Providers, the Association of Clinical Psychologists UK, the British Association for Social Workers, and the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy.
Professor Subodh Dave, Dean of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said:
“These figures highlight the extreme pressures NHS and social care staff are under. Our members report high workloads and poor work-life balance, particularly after the strain put on them during the pandemic.
“If the Government wants to actively grow the NHS workforce there needs to be significant investment and support to retain the current workforce.
“Mental health and wellbeing hubs have provided vital support for staff so far and the Government must provide additional funding so they can continue to help our overstretched workforce.”