Government is paying lip service to NHS staff wellbeing with ‘insulting’ £2.3m funding for mental health hubs
Health and social care staff deserve better than a drastically reduced service that's unable to meet demand.
06 July 2023
The BPS and Association of Clinical Psychologists UK (ACP-UK) have criticised the government for failing to meet recent promises to invest in NHS and social care staff wellbeing, after NHS England announced short-term funding of just £2.3million for NHS Staff Mental Health and Wellbeing Hubs until March 2024.
The funding disappointment comes despite the government saying only last week that wellbeing is fundamental to its staff retention strategy when it launched the long awaited NHS workforce plan.
With the annual running costs of the 40 NHS Staff Mental Health and Wellbeing Hubs coming in at an estimated £40 million, the BPS and ACP-UK say the new non-recurring funding, to be shared across the seven NHS England regions, falls woefully short, failing to cover even basic staff costs for the hubs.
New data obtained by the BPS has revealed the average annual running costs of a single hub is £843,606*. NHS England has proposed the funds could be used to fund one ‘scaled back’ hub in each of its seven regions.
But with a regional hub required to support a health and social care workforce of up to 600,000** employees, the BPS and ACP-UK say workers deserve better than a drastically reduced service that’s unable to meet demand, while waiting for workforce plan measures to be implemented.
Sarb Bajwa, chief executive of the BPS, said:
“We were pleased to see the government’s new NHS workforce plan outline a much-needed focus on support for staff wellbeing, but actions speak louder than words.
“We are bitterly disappointed for the existing and future NHS and social care workforce that the government has once again failed to meaningfully invest in the NHS Staff Mental Health and Wellbeing Hubs, despite unabated demand.
“The NHS potentially spends billions on agency and temporary staff to plug gaps in the workforce due to staff sickness absence and the well-documented recruitment crisis. Despite this, it has made the baffling decision to not invest in an existing network of well-evaluated staff wellbeing services already delivering the preventative and reactive provision outlined in its own workforce plan.
“Frankly this offer is an insult to the three million members of the health and social care workforce, who have been voting with their feet for years, and will continue to do so if they do not get the support they desperately need now, and in the future.
“It beggars belief that as we celebrate 75 years of the NHS, we have to remind the government how important it is that they provide staff with the care and support they need. It’s not too late for the government to take action.
“Removing funding for the NHS Staff Mental Health and Wellbeing Hubs has always been a false economy. We urge them to take this opportunity, and do the right thing by NHS and social care staff, by providing full funding for the hubs for at least the rest of the year.”
Professor Mike Wang, chair of ACP-UK, added:
“This shocking funding decision is simply the latest instalment in the government’s catastrophic handling of the future of the NHS Staff Mental Health and Wellbeing Hubs.
“The government is behaving as if the publication of the workforce plan will spell the end of the current challenges staff are experiencing, but it clearly isn’t an instant solution. With mental health reasons continuing to account for nearly a quarter of staff sickness absence, it’s vital the hubs continue to be fully funded to help people who need support now.”
A NHS Staff Mental Health and Wellbeing Hub lead, and chartered psychologist, said:
“This funding is a tokenistic and insulting drop in the ocean. The financial gesture won’t even touch the sides in terms of helping hubs cope with the ever increasing demand and complexity of issues we currently face on a daily basis.
“Day in, day out, we work with colleagues across the NHS who are struggling with a wide range of mental health issues, from anxiety and depression to burnout and dealing with the impacts of moral injury. Staff are exhausted, overwhelmed by their workload and struggling to give their patients the care they know they deserve.
“I urge ministers to speak directly to hub leads to find out exactly what the issues are on the ground and how the hubs are helping staff who are working at their limits, while supporting staff retention.”
Over 1,000 people have now written to their MP in support of the BPS’s #FundNHSHubs campaign, which has been calling on the government to provide a minimum of one year’s ringfenced funding for the NHS Staff Mental Health and Wellbeing Hubs, which have been a vital lifeline for health and care staff struggling with their mental health.