One in 10 posts for consultant psychiatrists in England are vacant with growing waiting times for people needing mental health treatment, experts have warned.
A census of the current situations across England by the Royal College of Psychiatrists has found there is just one psychiatrist for every 12,567 people in England.
Health service bosses at NHS England have acknowledged there are an estimated 1.5 million people who are waiting for mental health support amid fears the situation will worsen as the effects of the Covid pandemic become clear.
This is on top of the 5.6 million patients waiting for routine operations and treatments for physical illness.
The Royal College said there was a shortage of 568 empty consultant posts in the NHS out of a total of 5,367 which it said meant patients would have to wait longer for treatment. In total there are 4,500 full time consultants working in the NHS.
The highest rates of unfilled positions are in the fields of addiction, eating disorders and child and adolescent psychiatry.
High vacancy rates for consultant psychiatrists vary across England – in the North West and the East Midlands 15 per cent of posts are unfilled compared with the national average of 10 per cent.
The Royal College said a long term workforce plan was needed with 120 junior doctor posts created in 2022 along with 7,000 medical school places by 2029 with an annual investment of £1.7 billion.
Dr Adrian James, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists said: “The high number of people struggling as a result of the pandemic paired with the historic mental health backlog, have created a perfect storm.
“We’re now looking at record numbers of people having to wait for life-saving treatment, with waiting lists getting longer every day.
“If the government is serious about addressing long-term challenges in mental health, it urgently needs to significantly invest in our workforce so that we can ensure that demand for psychiatric care can at least be met in the future.
“We simply can’t win this fight without enough psychiatrists.”
A campaign to boost the numbers of junior doctors choosing to work in psychiatry since 2017 has seen a 100 per cent fill rate for training places but more are needed.
Sarah, aged 22, from Norwich, who’s lived with an eating disorder and …….