The new recruits include psychological practitioners who can help children with severe problems such as depression and self-harm
"There has never been a more important time to work in children’s mental health – demand for NHS services has skyrocketed over the last two years with the pandemic taking a significant toll on the nation’s wellbeing." Claire Murdoch, NHS mental health director
Since 2019, new figures show, the NHS in England has recruited 4,500 more staff to the children’s mental health workforce – 40% more than before the pandemic.
Many of these recruits are filling roles created to meet a sharp rise in demand. They include dozens of psychological practitioners to help young people aged 13 to 17 with severe depression, self-harm and more complex conditions, by offering them assessments, coping strategies and support in the community.
Between March 2019 and March 2022, the NHS mental health workforce grew by 18,583 full-time staff. Nonetheless, England still has 22,000 vacancies in mental health, and Claire Murdoch, the NHS mental health director, has called for more people to join the mental health workforce: “There has never been a more important time to work in children’s mental health – demand for NHS services has skyrocketed over the last two years with the pandemic taking a significant toll on the nation’s wellbeing.
“Thousands of new staff have already joined the ranks, as the NHS launches even more brand-new roles to meet record demand across the country to provide specialist support for children and young people to help with the pressures they face.
“Becoming a mental health nurse was one of the best decisions of my life and I would encourage anyone who is thinking about a career which can have a positive impact on people’s lives, to join the NHS and be part of our efforts to support people suffering from poor mental health, as we look to make our patient services even stronger than they were before the pandemic hit.”
Olly Parker, head of external Affairs at the charity YoungMinds, said the organisation was “encouraged to see that there are more NHS staff available to give much needed support to young people with their mental health.” He said it would “enable the NHS to support more children and young people as we continue to see referrals to the NHS reach record highs each month.”
Parker noted that the most recent NHS data shows that 66,389 young people aged 19 and under were referred to child and adolescent mental health services in April, a 109% rise compared to the same month pre-pandemic. He added: “This highlights not only the sheer amount of pressure on the NHS right now but the importance of continuing to focus on recruitment and retention of staff so children and young people are seen by a specialist as quickly as possible”.
Gillian Keegan, the minister for mental health, said that the government had invested £79m to expand mental health support teams in schools, and planned to give an additional 345,000 children access to support by 2024.
The steep increase in children and young people reporting mental health problems has led to NHS mental health services coming under severe pressure. We welcome the recruitment of 4,500 new staff but the sheer number of unfilled vacancies is concerning, and we think it’s time for the NHS and government to think more innovatively about how children can be supported to cope with conditions such as stress and anxiety.
FCC is actively exploring how different approaches to treatment and support for mental health can be implemented. There are examples of good practice, but these are not currently evenly distributed across the whole system. You can see more information here, and read about our latest research here.