A MENTAL health stunt by the government promising 21,000 new jobs in the sector has been dismissed as “jam tomorrow” with figures that don’t add up.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is due to announce the grandiose plans today, saying the aim is to treat an additional one million patients a year by 2021.
However health professionals said staffing-improved services will be almost impossible as recruitment has plummeted after the government abolished student nurses’ bursaries — the NHS is already short of 24,000 nurses.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) questioned whether enough people could be trained by the deadline and if the resources were even available to do so.
RCN chief executive Janet Davies said: “The government’s policies appear not to add up.
“If these nurses were going to be ready in time, they would be starting training next month.
“But we have seen that the withdrawal of the bursary has led to a sharp fall in university applications and we are yet to see funding for additional places.
“It is clear the government will need to work hard just to get back to the number of specialist staff working in mental health services in 2010.
“Under this government there are 5,000 fewer mental health nurses and that goes some way to explaining why patients are being failed.
“The NHS needs to see hard cash to deliver any plans.”
Labour shadow minister for mental health Barbara Keeley also dismissed the plans.
She said: “Once again this Tory government is promising only jam tomorrow, when what is needed is action today to tackle the staffing crisis in mental health.
“The workforce plan provides no real answers on how these new posts will be funded or how recruitment issues will be overcome.
“And it offers little hope to those working in the sector faced with mounting workloads, low pay and poor morale.”
She vowed that a Labour government would provide the investment needed to recruit and train staff with the right skills to deliver the mental health services patients need and deserve.
Labour would also legislate for safe staffing, reinstate nurse bursaries, lift the 1 per cent pay cap for NHS staff and ring-fence mental health funding to make sure it reaches the front line, Ms Keeley added.