Following the announcement in today’s Budget that the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, has pledged to ensure that funding for mental health services will grow as a share of the overall NHS budget over the next five years, Michael Johnson-Ellis, Managing Director of Healthier Recruitment, has expressed concerns that cash alone will not guarantee better patient outcomes.
The extra boost – which has been promised as part of a wider £20 billion a year package for the NHS to mark the health service’s 70th birthday – is designed to deliver ‘parity of care’ between physical and mental health. This will be achieved, in part, through up to £250 million investment a year by 2023-24 into new ‘crisis services’ within A&E departments, schools, ‘safe havens’ in the community and through NHS 111.
Commenting on pledge to boost mental health funding, Michael Johnson-Ellis, who has over 15 years’ experience in NHS recruitment, said:
“We applaud The Chancellor’s decision to inject extra funds into mental health crisis services, an area which hasn’t received its fair share of funding increases over the past five years. However, cash alone will not guarantee better patient outcomes: it is absolutely vital that any additional resources are directed in the most efficient way.
“In our extensive work with mental health trusts we have found that, from a staffing perspective, some wards are not managed in the most effective way. For example, overreliance on agency workers can impact both continuity of care and staffing spend. This, in turn, makes the environment more chaotic and the workplace less attractive for substantive staff, which further exacerbates the problem. In this instance, extra funding will not address the core issues.
“We also have questions around where the talent will come from in order to provide enhanced services across all the settings the Chancellor has outlined. Official figures show that the number of mental health nurses registered in the UK has dropped 12% in the last decade, while one in five current NHS nursing vacancies are for mental health specialists. In the long-term, we must pipeline specialist talent to be able to deliver the level of service that Philip Hammond has promised, however, in the short term, trusts must manage existing workforces strategically to ensure they are firing on all cylinders.”