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Mental health services understaffed

21st June 2011

The president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists has warned there is a "huge, massive problem" with a lack of staff and overcrowding in mental health wards.

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Professor Dinesh Bhugra said mental health wards discharged patients who were still unwell and in danger of harming themselves and other people.

He warned that not enough British medical students were choosing psychiatry as a profession and visa restrictions meant foreign doctors could not come and work in Britain.

The Royal College carried out a survey which showed that 14% of consultants' jobs in the UK had not been filled or were being carried out by a locum.

The survey also found that 209 consultants said they were thinking of retiring or resigning.

The results of a research paper due to be published next week showed that some psychiatric wards were so crowded that they had 120% occupancy, while the average occupancy rate was over 85%.

Another paper, which will be published in July, showed the amount of medical graduates who chose a psychiatric training post decreased from 184 in 2009 to 158 in 2010.

Professor Bhugra said: "We will be left with a dangerous vacuum of help for people with mental health disorders or will be forced to get special dispensation from the government to recruit heavily from countries who can ill afford to lose their mental health professionals."

"Society will be overwhelmed by the demand of those in need if government doesn't act now."

 

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