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  1. ITV Report

Government pledges to create 21,000 new mental health posts

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Richard Pallot

An NHS expansion plan for mental health services will see 21,000 new posts created, the Government has said.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said it would be "one of the biggest expansions of mental health services in Europe" and see an extra one million people treated by 2021.

Mental health charities welcomed the move, but questions were raised over whether enough people could be trained to fill the posts and if there are sufficient resources to make the £1.3 billion plan a reality.

"The Government's policies appear not to add up," said Janet Davies, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).

"If these nurses were going to be ready in time, they would be starting training next month.

"But we have seen that the withdrawal of the bursary has led to a sharp fall in university applications and we are yet to see funding for additional places.

"There is already a dangerous lack of workforce planning and accountability and this report is unable to provide detail on how the ambitions will be met."

GP numbers have fallen since last September. Credit: PA

The announcement comes as a report by the Royal College of GPs warned that a Government bid to increase GP numbers by 5,000 within three years is falling short.

The report said many doctors have yet to see significant change from the intended boost to numbers by 2020 and called for a rethink to get the process back on track, as GP numbers have fallen since last September.

The mental health plan will see 2,000 additional nurses, consultants and therapist posts created in child and adolescent mental health services.

An additional 2,900 additional therapists will help adult talking services, with 4,800 extra nurses and therapists in crisis care settings.

Retaining staff and encouraging some of the 4,000 psychiatrists and 30,000 trained mental health nurses not substantively employed by the NHS to return to the profession will form a major part of the drive.

Mr Hunt said: "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.

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

Mental health services are often overstretched across the UK. Credit: Newscast

Paul Farmer, chief executive of mental health charity Mind, welcomed the announcement but said cuts to the mental health budget in recent years had affected morale and seen "valued staff leaving mental health in frustration or burn-out".

He said: "A damaging lack of foresight in workforce planning in the past has led us to where we are now, with a significant gulf between what's in place and what's needed to deliver good quality care."

SANE chief executive Marjorie Wallace said: "These ambitious measures are a recognition of the emergency we now face, following so many years in which the mental health services have been running on empty."

Meanwhile, Labour said the Government was only promising "jam tomorrow" and that action was needed immediately to "tackle the staffing crisis in mental health".

"The workforce plan provides no real answers on how these new posts will be funded or how recruitment issues will be overcome," Labour's shadow minister for mental health Barbara Keeley said.