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Racial inequalities in mental health system will remain unless more psychiatrists are recruited

RACIAL inequalities in the mental health system will remain unless more psychiatrists are recruited, experts warn in a report published today.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists said that while the government has proposed welcome changes to the Mental Health Act to tackle racial disparities, ministers must commit to funding more staff to deal with the workload.

The report warned that the proposed changes would increase the workload for existing psychiatrists, so an extra 333 would be needed by 2024 and a further 161 by 2034.

Under the government’s plans for the Act, time intervals between tribunal hearings will be reduced, while the statutory use of care and treatment plans will add to psychiatrists’ workloads.

New and changing roles of “nominated persons” and “mental health advocates” are also likely to generate extra tasks for psychiatrists, the college said.

It called for the forthcoming spending review to commit £82 million to pay for the extra psychiatrists, with more cash in the future.

Black people are four times more likely to be detained under the Mental Health Act than white people.

Royal College of Psychiatrists dean Subodh Dave said: “The changes to the Act are absolutely necessary and must be delivered if we are to end this discrimination, modernise mental health law and improve support for people in a mental health crisis.

“But the changes can only be delivered if there are enough psychiatrists. We don’t have a workforce big enough to take on the extra work while continuing to deliver high-quality care to our patients.

“The government cannot break its promise to reform the Mental Health Act,” Professor Dave added.

The government has vowed to improve decision-making transparency and increase patients’ ability to challenge decisions.


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