Mental Health Crisis Spiralling Out of Control as Demand Outweighs Capacity, Warns BMA

Mental health patients across the country are being failed by the Government as the BMA warns that the latest NHS mental health statistics1 for England show a system that is struggling to keep up with rising demand.

Worrying analysis by the doctor’s union found that the number of children and young people in contact with mental health services since 2016 has expanded at almost four times the pace of the psychiatry workforce2. The number in contact with child and adolescent mental health services (CAHMS) has increased fourfold since April 2016, with figures now close to 400,000 people per month, showing just how stark the situation has become.

We are also seeing a steady rise in demand on adult services since the start of the pandemic, with over 1m people in contact with these services each month, which is adding to the overall pressure on the system3.  The serious shortages in psychiatry, with 1 in 7 planned Full Time Equivalent (FTE) roles currently vacant4, means that many children, young people, and adults are simply not getting the timely care they need.

The doctor’s union is deeply worried that the situation is likely to worsen as the rising cost of living drives up the number of people needing treatment for their mental health. BMA analysis found that the areas of highest economic deprivation have over double the number of people in contact with mental health services compared to the most affluent areas5.

Doctor’s leaders warn that this could spell disaster for mental health services if the Government continues to fail to tackle worsening poverty levels by refusing to increase benefits in line with rising prices; benefits that are already worryingly low to begin with.

To ensure that the NHS can meet rising mental health demand and have a sufficient workforce, the BMA are asking the Government to double their funding pledge promised in April 2019 of £2.3bn per year by 2023/24 to £5.2bn, factoring in inflation based on current forecasts.

Commenting on the latest figures, BMA mental health policy lead, Dr Andrew Molodynski said: 
“These shameful statistics confirm that the mental health crisis in this country is spiralling out of control and is failing some of the most vulnerable in society, as workforce capacity cannot keep pace with demand.

“It is incredibly concerning that we are seeing such a sharp increase in demand for child and adolescent mental health services, almost 4 times more than the current rate of expansion of the psychiatry workforce. This system is failing our children and young people as the inability to access treatment and to intervene at a crucial early stage may risk their mental health deteriorating and consequently increase the need for longer term dependence on an already broken system.

“The picture is similarly bleak for adult services, as there has been a steady increase in demand for services, meaning that more patients are not getting the timely access to the care they need.

“With a clear link between those living in areas of high economic deprivation and demand for mental health services, the current financial climate will only exacerbate the pressures on mental health if the Government do not intervene urgently with support for those worst off.

“The Government should be ashamed of the current state of our mental health service. It is crucial that they urgently deliver on the necessary investment needed to ensure people can access care in a timely manner, get the treatment they need. Underpinning all of this is the need for effective workforce planning with accurate estimates of the workforce that is needed to tackle the expected rise in demand going forward.”

 

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