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Monday, 11 September 2017

New analysis finds access to consultant psychiatrists varies massively across UK

Written by Jane Kirby

People with mental health problems are suffering due to a huge variation across the UK in access to consultant psychiatrists, according to a new analysis.

NHS Digital data examined by the Royal College of Psychiatrists shows that some regions have less than half the number of NHS consultants compared to other parts of the country.

For every 100,000 people in the North Central and East London region, there are around 13 consultant psychiatrists providing specialist mental health care.

But the East of England and Yorkshire and Humber have less than half this number - and the lowest in England - at five consultants for every 100,000 people.

In Wales, the figure is six consultant psychiatrists per 100,000 people, while Scotland enjoys 10, compared to an average of eight in post across England.

Meanwhile in Northern Ireland, there are eight consultant psychiatrists available per 100,000 people.

The College is warning that the number of medical students specialising in psychiatry "has all but flatlined", despite Government plans to have 570 extra consultant psychiatrists by 2020/21.

The College is launching a Choose Psychiatry campaign to encourage medical students to opt for a career in the specialism.

Professor Wendy Burn, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: "People with a severe mental illness should expect to see a specialist consultant, just as you would for a severe physical illness.

"The huge variation in consultant psychiatrists across the country means reality is increasingly falling short of our expectations.

"No matter where you work in the UK, being a psychiatrist is a privilege.

"As highly skilled medics, psychiatrists must be able to spot the nuance in symptoms, ask the right questions, and understand what the problem is.

"Without psychiatrists to lead specialist mental health teams we cannot deliver the high-quality care that our patients deserve."

The College's dean, Dr Kate Lovett, added: "As a consultant psychiatrist, I lead a community mental health team in Devon.

"Mental illness affects people even in the most apparently idyllic of places to live and work. Nothing beats seeing someone who you have been alongside through an incredibly difficult time start to get better.

"Anyone who is interested in a varied, stimulating career where you have time to get to truly know your patients as people should consider psychiatry."

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "We want people with mental health conditions to receive better treatment and that means having the right NHS staff.

"We have started one of the biggest expansions of mental health services in Europe with our ambition to create 21,000 new posts by 2021 by supporting those already in the profession to stay and giving incentives to those considering a career in mental health."

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