High demand and financial pressures putting strain on mental health workforce in Scotland

Press release, Scotland news
19 March 2024

High demand coupled with financial pressures is having a detrimental impact on the mental health workforce in Scotland, a new report has revealed.

The annual workforce census produced by the Royal College of Psychiatrists shows vacant psychiatry posts continue to rise year-on-year.

The data which captured both vacant posts and those temporarily filled by locums found that old age psychiatry had the greatest consultant vacancy rate (31.2%) followed by general adult psychiatry (30.9%) and addictions psychiatry (29.8%).

Overall, the true vacancy rate across psychiatry services is 25.3% for consultants and 18.6% for speciality doctors.

Now, RCPsych in Scotland has written to Neil Gray, Cabinet Secretary for NHS Recovery, Health and Social Care, to request a meeting to raise concerns and suggest possible solutions to the workforce problems.

Dr Jane Morris, Chair of RCPsych in Scotland, said:

“Some of the findings are extremely worrying but they echo what we already know has been happening on the frontline for many years – we have a demoralised workforce.

“It takes around 13 years to train to be a psychiatrist and with others retiring this is leaving a huge gap in mental health services. Our patients deserve so much better than this.

“While we’ve made strides in improving recruitment to psychiatry, we face significant retention challenges as the workforce is no longer motivated to remain in the NHS.

“We’re very keen to work with the Cabinet Secretary and other stakeholders to come up with solutions and ensure recommendations from our recently published State of the Nation Report are actioned.”

The data was a snapshot taken in March 2023 with 11 out of 14 health boards taking part. It’s the first time the national workforce census has produced detailed data focused on Scotland.

As well as capturing both vacant and substantive posts it also focused on vacant or filled by locum posts, giving a 'true vacancy rate' for the first time in the history of the census.

The data also reiterates the findings of a headcount carried out last year, by the Senior Medical Managers in Psychiatry Group.

Read the census results

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