The government’s ambition to put mental health on equal footing with physical health may be threatened by a reduction in the number of nursing jobs within the next few years.
Data requested by Health Education England (HEE) show that trusts are predicting a fall in the number of full-time vacancies in the sector from 2,330 to 1,473 by 2019.
Trusts advised that the data reflected a continuing trend towards NHS mental health services being provided by the private and voluntary sector rather than by the NHS.
In the past four years there has been a 7.3% decrease in the number of mental health nurses directly employed by the NHS.
HEE’s workforce planning team said it was concerned and that an extra 6.8% growth in the workforce would be needed by 2019. Despite trusts reduced forecasts, HEE has placed emphasis upon the importance of increasing the number of training places for nurses looking to specialise in mental health.
HEE director of strategy and planning Jo Lenaghan believes the forecasts did not feel “intuitively right”.
She said: “Employers are forecasting less of a demand, which we then locally and nationally triangulate and say: ‘given what we’ve had in recent announcements around parity of esteem – do we think they are really thinking forward enough about the profession?
“This is an area we’ve got to keep under review.”