Continuing his drive to secure better mental health services for patients and their families across Norfolk and Suffolk, Dr Dan Poulter has raised his concerns about the lack of hospital beds for people with acute mental health conditions, as part of an article in the Guardian newspaper on Saturday 20th July
A long-standing supporter of the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT), Dr Dan recently held a debate in Parliament to highlight the challenges currently faced by the NSFT and the patients that it cares for. Mental health services in Norfolk and Suffolk have been under-funded for decades and despite its best efforts, Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust has also been hampered by worsening recruitment problems. Capacity to recruit trained professionals in the East of England is particularly challenging, compared to the rest of the country. The East of England has the lowest number of Consultant Psychiatrists per head of population, compared to anywhere else in England. It is incredibly difficult to transform and improve quality of care without a qualified workforce to deliver it.
In response to recent Parliamentary questions, Dr Dan remains concerned that mental health provision is still a "Cinderella" service and he fears that child and adolescent mental health is falling behind the furthest.
The number of hospital beds for people with acute mental health conditions, where a consultant psychiatrist is on hand to oversee treatment, has fallen by almost 30% since 2009, and new official figures show that the number of beds for those with some of the most serious conditions – including psychosis, serious depression leading to suicidal feelings and eating disorders – has fallen from 26,448 in 2009 to 18,082 in the first quarter of this year.
Over the same period, the data also shows significant falls in the number of mental health nurses working in the NHS, from 46,155 to 39,358 and also in the number of doctors who are in specialist psychiatry training, from 3187 in 2009 to 2588 in the first quarter of this year.
As someone who works in the NHS as a mental health doctor, Dr Dan has first-hand experience of the challenges faced by staff and patients on a daily basis and that's why he's urging for more to be done by Government to ensure true parity of esteem between physical and mental health.
Speaking about these latest figures, Dr Dan said "The reality on the ground is that there are ever fewer beds available for the patients who need them. This means that people who are very unwell, for example with psychosis or depression with suicidal ideation, are unable to access timely inpatient care. Eating disorders is another service where there is often a long wait for patients who need beds for urgent inpatient care. This is not safe for the patients.
"Mental health professionals work incredibly hard but we are under-resourced. Despite the need to expand services to meet the needs of patients, and to provide more support for people with mental illness in the community, there are simply not the resources available to do it."
Only last week, in the House of Commons, the Prime Minister admitted that more needed to be done, and that the service had been "overlooked for too long". Dr Dan welcomes the announcement that there will be an increase of more than 5000 extra nurse-training places from September this year, including mental health training places and he will continue to push for greater funding to improve for mental health services here in Suffolk and Norfolk.
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NHS 10-Year Plan (19 Feb 2019)
Daniel Poulter: The hon. Gentleman is right to highlight the Blair Government’s injection of cash into the NHS and the meaningful difference that that made to many patients’ lives. On the waiting-time targets, if we are serious about parity for mental health and physical health, we should reflect on the fact that historically there have not been access targets for mental health of anywhere near the same...
NHS 10-Year Plan (19 Feb 2019)
Daniel Poulter: The plan recognises that some proposals in the Health and Social Care Act 2012 were made in error when it comes to the transference of powers to public health bodies and local authorities. However, based on my reading of the plan, the omission from that list relates to addiction services. If we are serious about mental health and about improving care and reducing health inequalities in areas...