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Mental Health Workforce

Volume 643: debated on Tuesday 19 June 2018

The mental health workforce plan published last summer underpins our expansion of mental health services, as set out in the “Five Year Forward View for Mental Health”. We aim to create 21,000 new posts in mental health by 2021.

I thank the Minister for her response. Mental health is one of the many complex drivers of rough sleeping, and can add to the complexity of getting rough sleepers off the street and into accommodation. Will my hon. Friend say how the new mental health employees in the NHS can help us to get rough sleepers off the streets and into accommodation?

I hope the expansion of mental health services will stop people becoming rough sleepers in the first place by bringing forward support earlier in the process. In January, we announced a £1 billion investment in mental health, part of which will be focused on crisis care and helping people who are experiencing crisis to stay out of hospital. The workforce plan backs that commitment by planning 5,200 posts to support those in crisis. We will be working with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government on a forthcoming strategy to make sure we honour our commitments.

It is not just the size of the mental health workforce that is critical, but the pressures faced within those workforces. We have just learned that there was the highest number of out-of-area placements in January since records were first kept. Mental health doctors and nurses often spend hours hunting for out-of-area beds, taking them away from other patients. When is the Government’s pledge to reduce and eventually ban out-of-area placements actually going to start to become a reality?

The hon. Lady is right to raise this issue. We are determined to end out-of-area placements, but clearly that will require behavioural change on the part of commissioners, as well as making sure that the investment takes place. I know she will continue to hold me to account on this issue, because it is clear that out-of-area placements can cause harm and we must tackle them.

According to data from 48 of 56 NHS mental health trusts, 3,652 patients suffered an injury in 2016-17 through being restrained—the highest number ever. There are concerns that increased use of insufficiently trained agency and bank staff since 2013 is contributing to this increase. Employing 21,000 new staff by 2021 just is not good enough. What is the Minister doing now to ensure that wards are safely staffed and patients are not injured?

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her question. She will be aware that I have been working with her colleague the hon. Member for Croydon North (Mr Reed) on his Bill to limit the use of restraint, because we on the Government Benches also very firmly believe in that. An essential part of his measure will be to improve training for staff in mental health units. That will be a tool in making sure that restraint is minimised.