‘SIGNIFICANT’ recruitment challenges in Jersey’s mental-heath services are resulting in patients facing increased waiting times, the department head has revealed, with a third of roles currently vacant.
Andy Weir, the director of mental-health and adult social care, said that the service was rolling out an ‘active campaign’ in Jersey and the UK to recruit to ‘long-standing vacancies’.
Those seeking diagnoses for ADHD and autism have some of the longest waits, he said, due to increased referrals for these services compounded with difficulties in recruiting specialist practitioners.
In response to the JEP’s queries about the number of vacancies in the psychiatry department posted to the government website, Mr Weir said: ‘Mental-health services have been advertising a number of roles as part of an active campaign to recruit to our long-standing vacancies. We are also about to undertake a focused mental-health recruitment campaign in the UK.’
While the overall retention rate has not changed, he said, and resignation has reduced, the ‘staffing position’ in mental health has changed due to ‘service redesign’ and more funds becoming available for developing the service.
This has resulted in the total number of funded posts in mental health growing from 317 in February 2022 to 374 in September 2023.
Currently 123 of the 374 posts are vacant (33%) – with 34 of these either in current recruitment, have been offered or have not yet been advertised.
He continued: ‘Jersey mental-health services face some significant challenges with recruitment, as with mental-health services across all jurisdictions.
‘Particularly challenging roles to recruit to are consultant medical staff, qualified nursing staff and administration staff – again, reflecting similar recruitment issues in the UK.
‘A small number of our locum psychiatrists have chosen to leave during 2023 as a result of the application of Jersey and UK tax rules – these posts are currently being recruited to. While we would wish to have all posts filled, service delivery is maintained – although there are some areas where vacancies result in increased waiting times.’
Mr Weir was unable to specify the length of delays or the number of patients on waiting lists, when questioned further by the JEP.
He added: ‘The key areas where vacancies have impacted are psychological and talking therapies and diagnostic services for ADHD and autism, with waiting list figures being different for each service.’
Mr Weir said there had been a ‘significant increase in referrals but difficulties in recruiting specialist practitioners in these areas’ but that ‘referrals are clinically prioritised and ongoing work is happening to seek to reduce current waits’.
He further explained that 40 of the vacant posts were covered by ‘agency staff, particularly medical staff and qualified nursing posts’, with others covered by ‘temporary staff or overtime and additional hours’.
He said: ‘As we continue to review and develop mental-health services, we will review the staffing and skill mix, and currently plan to implement a number of new initiatives – such as apprentice roles and new clinical roles – to reduce the number of unfilled posts across the mental-health care group.’
Earlier this year, the Comptroller and Auditor General spelled out recruitment and retention challenges as one of the issues contributing to ‘considerable stress’ for the Health Department, adding that it was affecting the ability to deliver an effective and comprehensive workforce strategy.