Experts have warned that one in 10 positions for consultant psychiatrists in England is vacant with increasing wait times for people needing mental health treatment.
A census of current conditions across England by the Royal College of Psychiatrists found that there is just one psychiatrist for every 12,567 people in England.
Health service owners in NHS England have acknowledged there are an estimated 1.5 million people waiting for mental health support, fearing the situation will worsen as the effects of the COVID pandemic become apparent.
This is on top of the 5.6 million patients who are awaiting routine operations and treatment for physical illness.
The Royal College said there was a shortage of 568 vacant consultant positions out of a total of 5,367 in the NHS, which meant patients would have to wait longer for treatment. Altogether there are 4,500 full-time consultants in the NHS.
The highest rates of vacancies are in the fields of addiction, eating disorders and child and adolescent psychiatry.
The high vacancy rate for consultant psychiatrists varies across England – 15 percent of positions are vacant compared to the national average of 10 percent in the North West and East Midlands.
The Royal College said a long-term workforce plan was needed, with 120 junior doctor positions created in 2022 along with 7,000 medical school locations by 2029 with an annual investment of £1.7 billion.
Dr Adrian James, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “The high numbers of people struggling as a result of the pandemic, coupled with the historical mental health backlog, have created a perfect storm.
“We are now seeing record numbers of people waiting for life-saving treatment, with the waiting list getting longer every day.
“If the government is serious about addressing the long-term challenges in mental health, it urgently needs to make significant investments in our workforce to ensure that we can at least meet the demand for psychiatric care in the future.
“We simply can’t win this battle without enough psychiatrists.”
A campaign to boost the number of junior doctors choosing to work in psychiatry since 2017 has seen a 100 percent fill rate for training places, but more is needed.
Sarah, 22, of Norwich, who lived with an eating disorder and self-harmed in her teens, had to wait five years for treatment.
She said: “The many long waits for mental health treatment have meant that my recovery from an eating disorder, poor self-esteem and self-harm has taken a very long time.
“At my lowest level I was harming myself about 100 times a day, but it still took me five years to get the treatment I needed to better manage my mental health and put an end to self-harm. , which has gripped me since my teenage years.
“I thank myself now as well for the treatment I’ve received from psychiatrists and mental health workers, but I could be on my way to recovery sooner if I didn’t have to wait so long for care.”
A Department for Health and Social Care spokesman said: “Early support and treatment is critical. We are experiencing the fastest expansion of mental health services in NHS history, supported by an additional £2.3bn per year through 2023-24, therefore Hundreds of thousands more children and adults can access the services.
“We are fully committed to attracting, training and recruiting the workforce of the future. We have provided an additional £111 million to support the training and education of NHS mental health staff, and most recently from 1500 has increased the number of medical school locations. year – an increase of 25 percent – as well as the opening of five new medical schools across the country.”
Credit: www.independent.co.uk /