A ‘national shortage’ of qualified mental health nurses risks pushing critical services into crisis, campaigners have warned today as The Yorkshire Post reveals the scale of cuts to the region’s NHS workforce.
Figures obtained via freedom of information requests to the region’s mental health trusts, responsible for providing health and social care services, show there are now fewer nurses despite a growing demand for care.
Mental health campaigners have called on the Government to turn its “warm words” into action after health secretary Jeremy Hunt this week announced a £1.3bn NHS expansion plan for services and recruitment.
Figures from South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, which runs services in Barnsley, Calderdale, Kirklees and Wakefield, show a dramatic drop in the number of nurses at Wakefield’s Fieldhead Hospital.
There are now almost 100 fewer mental health nurses working at the site compared to 2012.
Glenn Turp, regional director for the Royal College of Nursing in Yorkshire, said: “There have been many promises around mental health but we just don’t see these promises matching the reality when it comes to funding and prioritising care. Patients suffer when there are not enough qualified people to care for them and when those who are left are stressed and overworked.”
The number of patients staying in hospital for mental health reasons, or with an open referral at the South West Yorkshire trust, has grown from 26,000 in 2012 to 35,000 this year. Yvette Cooper, MP for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford, told The Yorkshire Post: “These figures are truly shocking. It shows that the Government’s warm words on mental health were a load of rubbish as our mental health services are being pushed into crisis. These findings reflect what nurses have been contacting my office to tell me – that they are overworked, exhausted and completely overwhelmed because of cutbacks to our mental health services.”
Elsewhere, at Leeds’ St Mary’s Hospital, the number of mental health nurses fell by almost 40 per cent between 2012 and 2017.
There are also fewer mental health nurses now than there were 12 months ago working at trusts covering Rotherham, Doncaster, Hull and Bradford.
An NHS England spokesman said a plan is in place with partners to improve the capacity of mental health services. “Over the last year we have made some huge strides forward to ensure mental and physical health are on an equal footing,” he said. “But there is much more work to do and we won’t rest on our laurels and we will continue to drive further improvements to ensure the right care is available to patients at the right time.”
Nursing numbers fall: Page 6; Comment: Page 14.