More psychiatrists need to be recruited to tackle racial inequalities, experts say

Racial inequalities in the mental health system will remain unless more psychiatrists are recruited, experts have warned.

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

In a new report, the college said the proposed changes will result in an increased workload for existing psychiatrists and an extra 333 are needed by 2023/24, with a further 161 by 2033/34.

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” will also likely generate extra tasks for psychiatrists, the college said.

The college wants the upcoming Spending Review to commit £82 million to pay for the extra psychiatrists that will be needed over the three-year Spending Review period, with more cash in the future.

Black people are four times more likely to be detained under the Mental Health Act than white people – something the Government hopes to address with some of the proposed changes to the Act.

The Government has said it will improve the transparency of decision-making, provide greater choice and autonomy, and increase the ability for patients to challenge decisions.

These changes will benefit all people but are designed to have a particularly positive impact for people from black and minority ethnic groups, it said.

Professor Subodh Dave (pictured), dean of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “The current Act often fails people from ethnic minority backgrounds, particularly black people.

“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.

“The Chancellor must deliver the funding needed to increase the psychiatric workforce in next week’s Spending Review, otherwise discrimination will remain, patient care will be compromised, and the success of the reforms will be jeopardised.”

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