Access to mental health and wellbeing support for NHS and social care staff has become 'postcode lottery', warns BPS
This World Mental Health Day, we’re calling for all NHS and social care staff to have equal access to dedicated evidence-based mental health and wellbeing support at work.
09 October 2023
Access to staff mental health and wellbeing services has become a postcode lottery for NHS and social care workers, after funding was cut for the NHS Staff Mental Health and Wellbeing Hubs in March this year.
This World Mental Health Day, we’re calling for all NHS and social care staff to have equal access to dedicated evidence-based mental health and wellbeing support at work, wherever they live in the country.
With 17 hubs already closed or closing across England, struggling staff in those areas are unable to access the dedicated support that’s still provided in localities that have retained a hub.
And, despite a limited injection of short term funding from NHS England to provide one hub per NHS region - which would offer a drastically reduced service for vast catchment areas - this arrangement is yet to be operational.
Some hubs report not having received this vital funding.
With less than six months of this financial year remaining, time is running out for staff who need to access help now. Yet, the need for dedicated mental health support for health and care staff could not be more stark.
The latest NHS statistics show anxiety, stress, depression, or other psychiatric illnesses was the most reported reason for sickness absence in May 2023, accounting for over 502,570 full time equivalent days lost and 26.4 per cent of all sickness absence.
Last year, more than 6 million full time equivalent days were lost in the NHS for mental health reasons.
Our own research found mental health, stress, and work-related stress was behind nearly one-third (30 per cent or 500,021 FTE days)* of social care staff sickness absence in 114 councils in England last year.
With the NHS Workforce Plan placing responsibility for investment in staff mental health and wellbeing provision with integrated care systems from April 2024, local health and care leaders will make crucial decisions about their staff mental health and wellbeing services, including the hubs, in the next few months.
To date, just one integrated care board has confirmed continued long term funding for its dedicated staff mental health and wellbeing service, and 41 boards are yet to make a decision about the future of their provision from April 2024.
That’s why we’re urging health and care leaders to make funding for staff mental health and wellbeing support a key long-term priority in their budgets.
Dr Roman Raczka, BPS President Elect and chair of the Division of Clinical Psychology, said:
“NHS and social care staff have the right to be cared for by their employer, as they care for us. If and when they need help with their mental health, they have a right to parity of access to the same support services as their colleagues in a neighbouring area.
“The NHS and local authorities have a duty of care to their employees, and it simply isn’t good enough that where you live and work should have a bearing on the level of mental health support on offer if you’re struggling.”
This year’s theme for World Mental Health Day is ‘Mental health is a universal human right’.