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Invest more in mental health support for NHS staff, health secretary told

Invest more in mental health support for NHS staff, health secretary told
By Beth Gault
27 March 2024

More must be invested in mental health and wellbeing services for frontline NHS and social care staff, the health secretary has been told.

In an open letter from 17 organisations, including the British Psychological Society (BPS), The King’s Fund, NHS Providers and the Medical Protection Society, Victoria Atkins was told that not funding more support could lead to staff taking time off sick, when there are already workforce shortages and retention issues.

It is part of a campaign to fund NHS staff mental health and wellbeing hubs by the BPS, after their funding was cut in March 23, with 18 of the original 40 having closed since. Three more hubs are set to close before the end of the month, with a further nine also under threat of closure.

The letter said: ‘We know that for every £1 spent on workplace mental health interventions, £5 is saved. Research estimates the financial cost to the NHS of poor wellbeing at £12.1 billion a year, and that around £1 billion could be saved by successfully tackling this issue in the long term, through sustained, ring-fenced investment at scale.

‘However, with integrated care systems operating in significant financial deficits, funding for many services is hanging in the balance, leaving NHS staff, and in particular social care staff, without the appropriate level of help they need to maintain their mental health, and stay in their jobs. We urge the government to restore long-term, ringfenced funding to integrated care systems to provide equity of access to mental health support for all NHS and social care staff and to help safeguard the mental health of this vital workforce both now, and in the future.’

Also new figures, out today, suggest that mental ill health costs society £300bn a year, with £60bn of that in health and care costs specifically.

Research by the Centre for Mental Health, commissioned by the NHS Confederation’s mental health network, suggested this also included £110bn of economic costs (including those related to sickness absence, presenteeism, staff turnover and unemployment), and £130bn in ‘human costs’ in terms of reduced quality of life and wellbeing.

The NHS Confederation’s mental health network chief executive, Sean Duggan OBE, said: ‘This detailed financial analysis lays bare the cost of mental ill health to the nation. With the overall cost double the cost of the NHS’s entire annual budget, this simply cannot be ignored by policy makers. The false economy of failing to invest in mental health is making the country poorer and causing unspoken anguish to so many people and their loved ones. It is vital that we now invest in effective interventions that bring us closer to a mentally healthier nation for all.’

Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive at NHS Providers said: ‘More and more people are being seen by mental health services, but there is major mismatch between rising demand for mental health care and the NHS’ ability to deliver it.

‘With two million people on mental health waiting lists, trust leaders know far too many are still not getting the care and support they need, as soon as they need it. Our survey found over nine out of 10 mental health trust leaders were worried about capacity to meet demand for services over the next 12 months.

‘We urgently need to tackle the rising tide of mental ill health and the consequences this can have for individuals, their families and wider society.’

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