Almost 2,000 mental health staff have left NHS services each month over the past year, figures have revealed.
Responding to a question asked by Labour’s shadow mental health minister Paula Sherriff on 13 September, mental health minister Jackie Doyle-Price said that 23,686 mental health staff quit hospital trusts and CCGs between June 2017 and May 2018 – around 1,974 a month.
In January 2017, Prime Minister Theresa May vowed to tackle the ‘burning injustice’ of mental health and ‘inadequate treatment’ by launching a series of measures, such as partnerships with employers to enhance mental health support at work.
As of March 2018, there were 183,476 full-time mental health staff working in the NHS, an increase of 915 employees (0.5%) compared to March 2017, according to NHS Digital.
Ms Sherriff said the figures are ‘shocking’ and do not reflect what the Government previously promised.
She added: ‘Ministers pledged to deliver the biggest mental health expansion in Europe and recruit 20,000 staff but more than a year later the workforce has increased by less than a thousand.
‘More than one in 10 mental health posts are vacant and nearly 25,000 staff – one in eight – have flooded out of the NHS in the space of just a year.’
In July 2017, Health Education England (HEE) published a mental health workforce plan – Stepping forward to 2020/21 – which laid out measures to create an additional 21,000 mental health posts and employ an extra 19,000 staff in the NHS by 2020.
Work in progress
Ms Doyle-Price said that HEE and NHS England are ‘currently developing a mental health workforce dashboard’, which will record progress against the targets and pledges highlighted in the mental health workforce plan.
‘In addition to expanding the mental health workforce, the Government also recognises that retaining our skilled staff is crucial,’ Ms Doyle-Price continued.
‘That’s why NHS Improvement and NHS England have been rolling out a special retention programme supporting those trusts with high levels of staff attrition.
‘Directors of nursing and mental health experts are working directly with trusts to develop rapid improvement plans on retention. These plans are required to set out plans for improvements over the next 12 months.’
Last year, NHS Improvement created master classes for directors of nursing and human resource directors to ‘discuss ways to improve retention’ across trusts.