Fewer doctors and nurses working in mental health

Published: 11th Jan 2017

In brief

Claim

There are 6,000 fewer nurses and 400 fewer doctors working in mental health under this government.

Conclusion

There were 6,100 fewer nurses in 2015 compared to 2010 in England, using a broad definition of mental health nurses that includes learning disability nurses. Looking only at mental health nurses there were 4,600 fewer over the same time. There were 170 fewer fully trained doctors specialising in psychiatry and psychotherapy in 2016 compared to 2010.

“Under this government there’s 6,000 fewer nurses working in mental health, 400 fewer doctors working in mental health”

Jeremy Corbyn, 11 January 2017

Between 2010 and 2015 the number of mental health nurses in England was reduced by over 6,100, or 14%. These are ‘full-time equivalent’ nurses working in psychiatry and with people with learning disabilities. More recent figures to September 2016 show the fall at around 6,500.

Mr Corbyn is using a broad definition of mental health nurses here, including those who work with learning disabilities. NHS Digital, which publishes the figures, uses this definition so that figures for mental health nurses can be compared back over time.

Looking only at mental health nurses working in psychiatry (and excluding those working in learning disabilities) there were around 4,600 fewer between 2010 and 2015. That’s a reduction of about 11%. Adding in the more recent figures to September 2016, that fall is around 4,800.

The number of places for trainee mental health nurses has increased in recent years. But this won’t necessarily lead to more nurses actually working for the NHS—Health Education England is concerned that “the existence of over 3,000 vacancies indicates this education supply is not translating into increased numbers in employment”.

We’ve asked Mr Corbyn’s office about the source of his claim that there are 400 fewer doctors working in mental health.

There were 167 fewer fully trained doctors specialising in psychiatry and psychotherapy in September 2016 compared to September 2010, and 36 fewer such doctors overall, according to the latest NHS England workforce statistics.

Correction 29 November 2017

This article originally just gave the figures for nurses working in mental health (including psychiatry and learning disabilities) from the parliamentary question Jeremy Corbyn was quoting. We’ve updated it to break these figures down and give a figure for nurses working just in psychiatry.

This factcheck is part of a roundup of Prime Minister's Questions. Read the roundup.


We aim for our factchecks to be as accurate and up-to-date as possible. If you think we've made an error or missed some relevant information, please email team@fullfact.org.