Health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s expansion plans for mental health services risk being nothing more than ‘pie in the sky’ and won’t go ‘anywhere near far enough’ to rectify the fall in staff numbers Britain’s largest union, Unite said today (Monday 31 July).
Responding to plans announced today by the health secretary, the union which incorporates the Mental Health Nurses Association, pointed to a decrease of 5,067 mental health nurses since the Tories came to power in 2010.
Unless the government scraps the one per cent pay cap, which is leading to staff leaving the service and reintroduces bursaries for nurses, Jeremy Hunt’s ambitious plans won’t get out of the starting blocks, the union warned.
Under the plans, the government aims to treat an extra one million people by 2021. The number of trained nurses, therapists, psychiatrists, peer support workers and other mental health professionals will be "dramatically" increased with 21,000 new posts under the plan, according to the Health Department.
Commenting, Unite lead professional officer for mental health, Dave Munday said: “When Jeremy Hunt speaks of a 'historic imbalance', he seems to be totally unaware of the significant part he's played in creating it.
“Since the Conservatives came to power in 2010, the number of mental health nurses has decreased by 5,067. If that number had kept pace with population growth, rather than being cut by 12.5 per cent, we would now have a total of 42,657 rather than the current 35,563 mental health nurses.
“Hunt's prescription for improving the situation does not go anywhere near far enough. The longer he delays scrapping the destructive pay cap, which has led to staff leaving the service, and the longer he forces future NHS professionals to pay to train, then the longer it will be until these necessary and welcome improvements are realised.
“It is a further failure that, in developing this plan, there has been little engagement with mental health nurses despite them offering constructive solutions to the problems highlighted. This offer remains in place.
“Jeremy Hunt’s track record on achieving workforce improvements has not been good. A recent Department of Health expansion plan, the Health Visitor Implementation Plan, missed its target, and since its formal finish, the number of health visitors has been cut by 14 per cent.
“In light of today's promise that 'perinatal mental health support' will be improved, this cut is even more devastating.”
For further information please contact Unite head of media and campaigns Alex Flynn on 020 3371 2066 or 07967 665869.
Notes to editors:
- Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.