Draft bill could trigger huge skills shortfall in mental health services

The proposals set out in the draft mental health bill could
significantly increase the workload of mental health professionals
and lead to a workforce crisis, a report by the NHS Confederation

It says that, under the proposals, social workers, psychiatrists
and administrative staff would have to spend double the time they
now spend implementing the Mental Health Act 1983. An extra 1,000
staff would be needed just to manage existing caseloads.

NHS Confederation chief executive Gill Morgan said major workforce
planning was vital “to avoid an intolerable strain on already
hard-pressed mental health services”.

Clinicians could be forced into rationing resources and giving
treatment to patients who are formally detained to the disadvantage
of those not subject to mental health legislation, the report

It concludes: “Mental health services are already hard-pressed and
affected by staff shortages in key areas. We are not yet convinced
that the benefits of new legislation, as currently drafted, are
commensurate with the extra process time.”

The increase is largely due to the proposal for all cases to go
through a mental health tribunal when requiring compulsory
treatment beyond 28 days. Currently, a tribunal is required only if
a service user applies. Estimates suggest there would be an
immediate increase of between 60 and 100 per cent in

The report warns that the increase “presents a real risk to the
whole mental health system”, and could result in a backlog.

Paul Farmer, chairperson of the Mental Health Alliance, said the
draft bill threatened to “overwhelm” health and social care staff
and might result in neglect of people who did not need compulsory

Meanwhile, the British Association of Social Workers said the NHS
would face the “unfeasible” prospect of recruiting 5,000 mental
health workers to act as approved mental health professionals, a
role that would replace approved social workers under the

Assessment of Implications of New Mental Health Legislation
on Mental Health Service Organisations
from www.nhsconfed.org

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