Hospital Dr News

Government to create 21,000 new mental health posts in £1.3bn boost to services

The government has launched plans to expand NHS mental health services.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said 21,000 new posts would be created at a cost of £1.3bn, with more trained nurses, therapists, psychiatrists, peer support workers and other mental health professionals.

The plan aims to treat an extra 1 million people by 2021, provide mental health services seven days a week, 24 hours a day, and properly integrate mental and physical health services.

The announcement follows a pledge by Theresa May seven months ago, when she promised to tackle the “burning injustice of mental illness”.

“As we embark on one of the biggest expansions of mental health services in Europe it is crucial we have the right people in post – that’s why we’re supporting those already in the profession to stay and giving incentives to those considering a career in mental health,” said Hunt.

“These measures are ambitious, but essential for delivering the high performing and well-resourced mental health services we all want to see.”

The Royal College of Nursing has questioned whether there was sufficient time and funding to train enough new professionals to meet the ambition of the policy.

Sean Duggan, chief executive of the Mental Health Network, said: “Securing a sustainable mental health workforce fit for the future is crucial in delivering the much-needed transformation laid out in the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health.

“Today’s workforce plan is a step in the right direction, and we welcome the commitment to attracting and retaining new staff. It is also essential that we support our current workforce, providing them with training, support and development opportunities to ensure the mental health sector presents an attractive career path on which people want to remain.

“What’s required now is a detailed implementation plan to support services to deliver this workforce strategy effectively.”

Furthermore, Hunt defended the continued pay rise cap for nurses, saying this was in part why the government could afford to recruit more people.

“It is a very tough job, and I would say that nurses on the front line have never worked harder,” Hunt said.

“But we are expanding the nursing workforce: we have nearly 6,000 more nurses on the front line than we had in 2010. We want to expand it further. One of the reasons we have been able to expand the workforce to date is because, with a limited budget and a very difficult economic situation, we have shown pay discipline.

“We have to balance that against the need for recruitment, to keep people in nursing. That’s why we have this independent process with the pay review body. That’s why we will listen carefully to what the pay review body says before we make our final decision.”

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