Psychiatry ‘crisis’ as 10% of consultant posts vacant

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One in 10 consultant psychiatrist positions in Scotland are vacant, according to a new report, leading to claims the profession is facing a “workforce crisis”.

A census by the Royal College of Psychiatrists found that vacancy rates are particularly high in child and adolescent mental health services.

More than one in six consultant posts (17.5%) in Camhs is vacant.

Ministers say they have invested £54m in mental health services.

The census found that 72 out of 747 consultant psychiatry posts (9.7%) in Scotland are vacant. In 2017, one in 16 posts (6.3%) were vacant.

Across the UK, the vacancy rate is 9.6%.

Due to retire

Professor John Crichton, chairman of the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCPsych) in Scotland, said: “We have a workforce crisis on our hands and need more junior doctors to choose psychiatry.

“Simply put the supply does not meet the demand.”

He said many psychiatrists were expected to retire within five years and there had been a drop in the numbers of psychiatrists choosing to progress to higher training.

Junior doctors need to spend six years training before gaining consultant status, he added, which also contributes to the shortage.

He said the Scottish government needed to do more.

Charlie’s experience

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Charlie MacKenzie

Charlie MacKenzie, from Glasgow, waited eight years to finally get the specialist mental health treatment she needed.

The 21-year-old has autism, borderline personality disorder and complex PTSD.

Her first interaction with Camhs was aged seven when she went for an assessment but was rejected for treatment until eventually being accepted eight years later.

She said: “My mental health is better than it was once was, but I still have my ups and downs.

“If I had been seen quicker way back when this all started, then I might have not had the same mental health problems.

“We urgently need more psychiatrists, especially within Camhs.”

‘Mental health epidemic’

The Scottish government standard states that 90% of children and young people should start treatment within 18 weeks of referral to Camhs.

However, the research found that just under seven out of 10 (69.7%) children and young people were seen within 18 weeks in the three months to June, down from 73.6% for the previous quarter and 67.5% for the quarter ending June 2018.

A Scottish Children’s Services Coalition spokeswoman said the country was experiencing a “mental health epidemic”.

A Scottish government spokeswoman said: “Over the past five years we have increased the number of posts and in 2018 we saw a significant improvement in recruitment to psychiatric specialities.

“There has also been an increase of 15% (11.8 whole time equivalent) in the number of Camhs psychiatrists since this additional funding came into place in March 2016.

“We are investing £54m in a comprehensive package of support to improve access to mental health services for adults and children, providing funding for additional staff and workforce development.”

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