Jeremy Hunt has announced plans to spend an extra £1.3bn on mental health services and new posts.
The Department of Health has said that the money will help integrate mental and physical health care.
The plans see 21,000 new posts planned for nurses, therapists, psychiatrists and peer support workers.
Some 2,000 additional posts will be added to child and adolescent mental health services, and 2,900 additional therapists will help adult talking services, with 4,800 extra nurses and therapists in crisis care settings.
Mr Hunt said: “As we embark on one of the biggest expansions of mental health services in Europe, it is crucial we have the right people in post – that’s why we’re supporting those already in the profession to stay, and giving incentives to those considering a career in mental health.
“These measures are ambitious, but essential for delivering the high performing and well-resourced mental health services we all want to see.”
'The counselling workforce is already there and willing to fill these new posts now'
Dr Andrew Reeves, Chair of BACP said: “It’s great news that the Government are employing more therapists on the NHS.
“Jeremy Hunt talks about having the right people in post and a drive to retrain and retain existing staff. The Government need to look no further than the thousands of under-utilised trained counsellors that have been marginalised and had their numbers cut over many years.
“The counselling workforce is already there and willing to fill these new posts now and immediately start helping the people get the support they need on the NHS.”
'Policies appear not to add up'
Janet Davies, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: "It is welcome that the Government is setting this laudable ambition and investment in the mental health workforce is always welcome. However, the Government’s policies appear not to add up.
“If these nurses were going to be ready in time, they would be starting training next month. But we have seen that the withdrawal of the bursary has led to a sharp fall in university applications and we are yet to see funding for additional places.
“There is already a dangerous lack of workforce planning and accountability and this report is unable to provide detail on how the ambitions will be met.
“It is clear the Government will need to work hard just to get back to the number of specialist staff working in mental health services in 2010. Under this Government, there are 5,000 fewer mental health nurses and that goes some way to explaining why patients are being failed.
“We welcome the development of new supporting roles but their responsibilities must be clearly defined to avoid down-banding or substitution. There must also be recognition of the excellent support roles already in place.
"For as long as parity of esteem between physical and mental health services remains rhetoric, this picture will not improve. The NHS needs to see hard cash to deliver any plans."
'Psychiatrists are vital to the treatment of mental illness'
Professor Wendy Burn, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists said: “I am delighted to see Health Education England’s mental health workforce plan. As medically trained doctors, psychiatrists are vital to the treatment of mental illness. You would expect to see a consultant if you had cancer and the same applies for mental health. We have worked closely with HEE to protect psychiatrists in the long-term delivery of mental health care. The 570 extra consultants promised in this strategy will be crucial to delivering the high-quality, robust mental health services of the future.
“We welcome the opportunity for more junior doctors to experience working in mental health. Allocating more medical school places to schools that put mental health at the heart of the curriculum is an ambitious way to reward progressive and positive teaching about the specialty in the medical world. The Royal College of Psychiatrists is committed to ensure the current workforce feels supported and valued and to encourage more trainees to choose psychiatry.
“The biggest challenge to creating robust mental health services is the workforce. I am very supportive of this strategy which starts to tackle that problem.”
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- Read a trainee therapist's views on this announcement - ‘Where’s my incentive to work in mental health?’