Home Mental Health & Well-Being Restore Investment in Mental Health Support for NHS and Social Care Staff, Say Leading Organisations

Restore Investment in Mental Health Support for NHS and Social Care Staff, Say Leading Organisations

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Leading health and care organisations are urging the government to restore vital ringfenced investment in mental health and well-being services for frontline NHS and social care staff.

On the one-year anniversary of funding cuts to NHS Mental Health and Wellbeing Hubs, seventeen organisations have written an open letter to Victoria Atkins MP, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, warning that staff face a postcode lottery of patchy mental health support, as hubs across England continue to close. 

The letter is signed by the British Psychological Society, The King’s Fund, Royal College of Psychiatrists, British Medical Association, NHS Providers, Royal College of General Practitioners, Royal College of Nursing, Royal College of Anaesthetists, Royal College of Radiologists, Centre for Mental Health, Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, British Association of Social Workers England, Association of Clinical Psychologists UK, British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, Medical Protection Society, the Faculty for Intensive Care Medicine, and the HCSA – the hospital doctors’ union.

The warning comes as recent NHS Staff Survey results continue to reflect a burnt out and demoralised workforce. 42% of staff said they have felt unwell because of work-related stress in the last 12 months; nearly one third (30%) of staff said they often or always feel burnt out because of their work.

With many staff presenting to the remaining hubs with significant and complex mental health issues, the organisations are highlighting that without dedicated services, staff will be added to lengthy waiting lists for mainstream mental health services. This could lead to staff taking more time off sick, or delaying their return to work, at a time when staff shortages and retention issues are a major concern.

Most of the funding for the 40 NHS Staff Mental Health and Wellbeing Hubs was cut in March 2023, with just £2.3 million provided to hubs in July 2023, a fraction of the original £38.5 million annual budget. Research shows that for every £1 spent on workplace mental health interventions, £5 is saved, yet the picture for staff mental health and wellbeing services across England is bleak.

  • Of the original 40 hubs, 18 hubs have closed since March 2023
  • Three hubs are slated for closure at the end of March, and a further nine hubs are yet to have confirmation of funding and are under threat of closure.
  • Just ten hubs have confirmed some funding for the year ahead.

Of those hubs that have remained open this year, the majority have offered a reduced service, and snapshots of evidence demonstrate the severity of the issues staff are presenting with. 

  • One hub found that 30% of hub users presented with suicidal thoughts.
  • In the first two months of 2024, one hub has seen its highest number of referrals to date, with 65% presented with complex posttraumatic stress disorder. 67% were managers, leaders, and senior clinical practitioners.
  • In another hub, of the 1,187 people registered for one-to-one support between April 2023 and December 2023, concerningly, 78% of hub users presented with moderate to severe depression.

Evidence suggests the mental health support provided by staff mental health and wellbeing services can help support staff retention and could ultimately lead to a cost savings for the NHS by reducing the soaring costs on agency staff to plug staffing gaps.

Analysis from one hub found that 95% of those who were treated returned to work or did not take sickness absence; another hub found that 200 staff members returned to work from long term sickness absence after getting help from the hub.

Dr Roman Raczka, President-Elect of the British Psychological Society, said: “Staff are the lifeblood of our NHS and social care services, and ambitions to achieve improved productivity simply cannot be achieved without investment in a healthy, supported workforce. The recent NHS Staff Survey results and evidence from Staff Mental Health and Wellbeing Hubs highlights why continued investment in mental health support remains a vital part of the solution to addressing workforce challenges, and research shows it makes good business sense.

“We know senior NHS and social care leaders want to provide their workforces with the best possible support. They recognise how dedicated mental health support can help staff remain in their jobs, return from long term sickness and, crucially, prevent future ill-health. However, most integrated care systems are struggling to balance the books, and the funding simply isn’t there to provide these, sometimes lifesaving, services. That’s why together we’re calling on the government to act and help safeguard the mental health of this vital workforce, both now and in the future.”

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