Wednesday, 27 Oct 2021

‘One psychiatrist per 12,567 people in England’: Medics’ mental health workforce warning

Record numbers of people waiting for “life-saving treatment” and a shortage of psychiatrists have led to a perfect storm in mental health care in England, leading medics have warned.

Workforce shortages mean there is just one psychiatrist per 12,567 people, the Royal College of Psychiatrists said.

It said a tenth of consultant posts – 568 out of 5,367 – are vacant as it published its 2021 census.

The highest rates of unfilled positions are in the fields of addiction, eating disorders and child and adolescent psychiatry.

The College said NHS workforce data shows there are 4,500 full-time consultant psychiatrists for 56.5 million people – or one psychiatrist per 12,567.

Dr Adrian James, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “The high number of people struggling as a result of the pandemic paired with the historic mental health backlog have created a perfect storm.

“We’re now looking at record numbers of people having to wait for life-saving treatment, with waiting lists getting longer every day.

“If the government is serious about addressing long-term challenges in mental health, it urgently needs to significantly invest in our workforce so that we can ensure that demand for psychiatric care can at least be met in the future.

“We simply can’t win this fight without enough psychiatrists.”

High vacancy rates for consultant psychiatrists vary across England – in the North West and the East Midlands 15% of posts are unfilled compared with the national average of 10.68%.

It comes as the NHS faces an unprecedented backlog.

The College said the high vacancy rates in psychiatry mean that some people are forced to wait longer for care.

It has called for a long-term plan to grow the psychiatric workforce and said the government must invest in a further 120 core psychiatry training posts in 2022.

And there should be an extra 7,000 medical school places on top of the existing 8,000 by 2029, it added.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “Early support and treatment is vital.

“We are delivering the fastest expansion in mental health services in NHS history, backed by an additional £2.3bn a year by 2023/24 so hundreds of thousands more children and adults can access services.”

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