Skip to main content

Mental Health Nurses

Volume 586: debated on Tuesday 21 October 2014

9. What estimate he has made of the number of mental health nurses working in the NHS in each of the last three years. (905546)

Mental health nurses are not identified in the NHS work force statistics. They work predominantly in psychiatric services, but also across a range of settings and the independent sector. The total number of full-time equivalent nurses working in psychiatric services was 39,472 in July 2012, 38,772 in July 2013, and 38,055 in July 2014. Since June, NHS organisations, including mental health trusts, have been required to report ward-level nursing numbers against safe staffing levels on NHS Choices.

I am sure the Minister will join me in praising the hard work and dedication of all the staff at Laureate House mental health facility in Wythenshawe hospital in my constituency. The Government talk the talk, but do not walk the walk in terms of parity. Why has there been a decline in the number of mental health doctors over the past two years?

I also praise the work of the staff at the hon. Gentleman’s local trust. There has actually been an increase of more than 2,800 practitioners in psychological therapy since 2010 as part of the IAPT programme—increasing access to psychological therapies —which I am sure the hon. Gentleman will be very pleased to hear. For the first time, this Government are introducing access and waiting time standards in mental health, and that gives us the basis to achieve genuine equality for mental health for the first time ever.

My local trust in Solihull tries to treat mentally ill patients out of hospital and at home whenever possible. That is commendable, but when a patient needs a bed they have to travel up to 200 miles because the trust operates at 100% capacity most of the time. Does my right hon. Friend agree that that is unacceptable and that more beds should be made available locally?

Yes, I agree that it is totally unacceptable for patients to be sent a long way away from home. In children’s services, we are investing £7 million extra this year to produce 50 more beds, and we are holding NHS organisations to account to ensure that they provide beds locally so that people do not have to travel long distances.

Research published yesterday by the Centre for Mental Health and the London School of Economics shows that perinatal mental illness is costing our economy more than £8 billion each year. Does the Minister think it is acceptable that half of mums do not have access to a service, are being separated from their babies, are being forced to travel hundreds of miles for a bed, or are not getting any help at all? What is he going to do about it?

The position has actually improved significantly. Last week, I visited a fantastic perinatal mental health service in Torbay where mums are getting support locally, as, indeed, they should be. I totally agree with the hon. Lady that it is unacceptable that people have to travel long distances, but across the country things are changing, and changing rapidly.