Shortage of mental health nurses could plunge Yorkshire services into crisis

A new report suggests we could need the equivalent of two new hospitals just to treat our expats.
A new report suggests we could need the equivalent of two new hospitals just to treat our expats.
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A shortage of qualified mental health nurses could push Yorkshire’s critical services into crisis, campaigners have warned.

The Yorkshire Evening Post today reveals the scale of cuts to the region’s NHS mental health nursing workforce.

Figures obtained via Freedom of Information requests to the region’s mental health trusts, responsible for providing health and social care services, show there are now fewer nurses compared to five years ago despite a growing demand for care.

Mental health campaigners have called on the Government to turn its “warm words” into action, after Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt this week announced a £1.3bn NHS expansion plan for services and jobs.

At Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, where the largest fall in numbers is seen, there are now one third less mental health nurses than in 2012.

However, the trust says the sharp fall - from 1,057 to just 690 - is due to 700 members of staff being transferred to Tees, Esk & Wear Valley NHS Trust in October 2015 after the Leeds trust lost a contract to run services in the Vale of York.

There was still a reduction of more than 50 mental health nurses over the last 12 months at the Leeds trust.

The latest figures come as the YEP is calling people to help raise awareness about mental health issues – and tackle stigma – as part of our #SpeakYourMind campaign.

At the city’s St Mary’s Hospital, which provides community mental health services, mental health nursing staffing levels have fallen by almost 40 per cent since 2012.

Anthony Deery, director of nursing and quality at the trust in Leeds, said: “There is a national shortage of qualified nurses but the trust is committed to its recruitment efforts so we can continue to provide the best care possible to our service users. We welcome the government’s announcement to recruit more mental health workers.”

At the trust’s Becklin Centre site, next to St James’ Hospital, numbers grew from 125 in 2012 to 145 in 2017.

Elsewhere, figures from South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust show a dramatic drop in the number of nurses at Wakefield’s Fieldhead Hospital, the trust’s main site for services, despite a rise in the number of patients accessing mental health care.

Almost 100 fewer mental health nurses are now working at the site compared to 2012, a cut of around one third.

Yvette Cooper, MP for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford, said the cuts were unfair on patients and staff.

“These figures are truly shocking,” she said. “It shows that the Government’s warm words on mental health were a load of rubbish as our mental health services are being pushed into crisis. “These findings reflect what nurses have been contacting my office to tell me – that they are overworked, exhausted and completely overwhelmed because of cutbacks to our mental health services.”

The number of patients staying in hospital for mental health reasons, or with an open referral at the South West Yorkshire trust, has grown from 26,000 in 2012 to 35,000 this year.

The number of mental health nurses working at Calderdale Royal Hospital in Halifax, Wakefield’s Pinderfields Hospital and Dewsbury and District Hospital all fell last year,

Tim Breedon, director of nursing at the trust, said staffing levels are monitored closely.

“Nurse staffing is a challenge both locally and nationally,” he said. “Particularly with the recruitment of mental health nurses.

“At the same time, we know that demand for mental health services is increasing.”

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