Examination of Witnesses

Part of Health and Care Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:15 pm on 9th September 2021.

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Andy Bell:

This is incredibly difficult. We have some very ambitious plans now—the NHS long-term plan ambitions for mental health. There is, quite rightly, an awful lot of money going into that, because we have a very big gap in our ability to meet people’s needs. The only way that is going to succeed is if we have a very significant expansion in the mental health workforce.

We need to remember that that workforce is not just what people think it is. It is obviously nursing and obviously psychiatry, but it is also social work—a lot of really important mental health provision is in local government under social care. We need to think about the importance of advocacy and the importance of peer support, the importance of employment and housing rights workers, who we know make a big difference to people’s lives. There is also the key role of the voluntary sector in providing forms of support that may not come under traditional clinical headings, but none the less make a huge impact in people’s lives. We need to build the workforce.

The Bill gives some steps forward and summary assurances. In some ways, it is not quite the right place to be dealing with this. This is about whether the various parts of the system—the health education system, the NHS itself and its partners in local government—have the resources and the right ways to encourage people to come and work in mental health. It would be great to see the kind of recruitment campaigns we have had for the NHS as a whole to really help bridge that very big gap in the mental health workforce. At the moment, I think the Bill is probably neutral on it. It would be good to see some stronger assurances, at the very least holding the Secretary of State to account for how they are achieving the workforce ambitions set out in the long-term plan and future policies that will have to come.