A CHRONIC shortage of staff and beds are leaving already stretched mental health services at crisis point, medical experts warned yesterday.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists said a reduction in both community mental health services and beds coupled with a rise in demand is failing those with the most serious problems.
New figures show that the number of acute inpatient beds for adults with mental health problems in England and Wales fell by 15 per cent between 2012-13 and 2015-16.
During the same period, staffing was cut by a fifth, the report by the Centre for Mental Health charity and the NHS Benchmarking Network reveals.
But while the number of people admitted into hospital did not change, there has been a year-on-year rise in the proportion of people admitted under the Mental Health Act.
Community mental health services have also lost 7 per cent of staff working on community team caseloads and there has been a 4 per cent dip in overall staffing.
Shadow minister for mental health and social care Barbara Keeley said: “The findings of this report show that the Tory pledge to make mental health an equal priority with physical health is nothing more than hollow rhetoric.
“The government should match Labour’s pledge to invest more in mental health services and ring-fence mental health spending to ensure funding reaches the front line.”
Mental health charity Mind chief executive Paul Farmer said the figures suggested that people were having to reach “crisis point — where they are self-harming, in psychosis or suicidal — before they got the help they needed,” and opportunities to get quicker help and prevent crisis may have been missed.
Think tank the King’s Fund has also revealed that there were sustainability and transformation plans (STPs) to cut hospital beds further, threatening an already struggling NHS.
But it said that with hospitals currently full to capacity cuts were “undesirable and unachievable.”
The number of NHS beds in England has more than halved over the last 30 years, from around 299,000 to 142,000. Last winter, many hospitals declared major alerts and closed A&E doors, with an average of more than 90 per cent beds full across the service.