Mental healthcare hit by 'alarming' shortage of psychiatrists

Report finds one in 10 UK posts unfilled with young people and mothers worst affected

A UK-wide shortage of psychiatrists is forcing children with eating disorders and other troubled young people to wait longer for NHS care, it has been claimed.

About one in 10 consultant psychiatrist posts are unfilled and the rate of vacancies has doubled in the last six years, a major workforce survey by the Royal College of Psychiatrists found.

Services for those with eating disorders, under-18s with mental health issues and mothers struggling after the birth of a child are experiencing particular shortages, data collated by the college shows.

Prof Wendy Burn, the college’s president, said the findings were “very alarming” and raised doubts as to whether ambitious government plans to improve mental healthcare would be delivered.

The report warns that increasing gaps in the psychiatry workforce “come at a time of soaring demand for mental healthcare, with a shortage of psychiatrists contributing to the lengthy waits for treatment many patients face. The impact on patients’ lives can devastating, including divorce, debt and job losses.”

In England, 9.9% of full-time consultant posts in psychiatry are vacant, almost double the 5.2% which were unfilled in 2013, according to the college’s biennial workforce research report. In all 568 posts are vacant out of what should be a total workforce of 5,730 consultant psychiatrists.

However, Wales has the highest vacancy rate of the four home nations – 12.7% – while in Scotland 9.7% of posts are unfilled and in Northern Ireland it is 7.5%, giving a UK-wide rate of 9.6%.

Vacancies are widespread in England in key areas of the mental healthcare service, which the government and the NHS long-term plan have pledged to improve as part of a drive to reduce waiting times, increase the numbers who get help and give mental health “parity of esteem” with physical healthcare.

For example, one in six consultant posts in eating disorders services are empty. It has the highest rate of unfilled posts among the 13 specialist areas of psychiatry – 15.6%. The shortage is most pronounced in the east of England, where one in three posts have no doctor. In both the south-west and the south-east of England, almost 17% of posts are vacant.

But about one in eight posts in perinatal mental healthcare for new mothers (13.1%) and in child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) (12.1%) are unfilled. For example, 25% perinatal psychiatric posts are vacant in the west Midlands and 21.4% in the south-west.

Vacancies for CAMHS consultants are running at 10% or more in every region of England apart from the east and south-west. They are worst in Trent (16.9%) and the west Midlands (16.7%).

There is also a significant shortage (11.8%) of liaison psychiatrists, especially in the north-west (19.4%) and London (19%). They work in A&E units to help people undergoing a mental health crisis who turn up seeking help.

Eating disorder and children’s mental health charities voiced concern at the findings and warned that the major shortages in those areas of care could have serious consequences.

“We know eating disorder services are struggling to fill vacancies, which is impacting the ability of those services to treat patients as quickly as possible”, said Tom Quinn, director of external affairs at Beat Eating Disorders.

“This in turn has a detrimental effect on those patients, as early treatment is key to a full and sustained recovery.”

Support for patients with anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and other eating disorders is a key part of NHS mental healthcare because of the high rate of death, including by suicide, linked to them. Sufferers are twice as likely to die as the general population, while those with anorexia – mainly girls and young women – are almost six times as likely to die, the highest risk for any mental disorder. However, some people wait at least 41 weeks to start their treatment as a result of what the royal college says is a “postcode lottery” in the availability of care linked to psychiatrist numbers.

CAMHS care is also important because of rising rates of self-harm and suicide in young people. Tom Madders, the campaigns director at YoungMinds, said:”We know from calls to our parents helpline that young people too often have to wait months to access support. With more and more young people looking for help, it’s crucial that action is taken to recruit and retain professionals specialising in children and young people’s mental health.

“But we need to do more than this. There has been welcome investment in the NHS, but services will remain overstretched unless more young people get help early on, before their problems escalate. That’s why we need a new government strategy that focuses on tackling the factors that lead to poor mental health and improving early support.”

The college wants ministers and NHS chiefs to improve working conditions for psychiatrists by, for example, having hot food available on nightshifts. And it wants the government to increase the supply of homegrown doctors by doubling the number of places in medical schools to 15,000.


The Department of Health and Social Care said it recognised the problem the college had identified.

“Expanding the mental health workforce is a key priority. We know more work is needed to meet rising demand on services and to ensure patients are getting the best treatment”, a spokesperson said.

“Our interim NHS people plan set out immediate actions we will take to fill vacancies and secure the staff we need for the future, including addressing pensions tax concerns, increasing university clinical placements by over 5,000 more and bolstering the workforce through greater international recruitment.”



All elderly people to get free personal care under £6bn Labour plan

Announcing the plan in his conference speech, shadow chancellor John McDonnell will describe social care as a "national scandal".

All elderly people will be given free help in their own homes with washing, preparing meals, and getting in and out of bed under a £6bn scheme being proposed by Labour.

Under the party's vision for a "National Care Service", a Labour government would introduce free personal care for all older people in England living at home and in residential care.


The plans, to be unveiled at Labour's conference in Brighton, will also seek to address the funding gap in social care; support local authorities to directly provide, rather than outsource, care; and to ensure the elderly receive support from trained staff.

Announcing the policy in his conference speech on Monday, shadow chancellor John McDonnell will describe the country's social care sector as a "national scandal".

"As the first building block in our new National Care Service the next Labour government will introduce personal care free at the point of use in England," he will say.

"Funded not through the Conservatives' gimmicky insurance schemes but, like the NHS and our other essentials, through general taxation."

Mr McDonnell will add: "Nothing is more important than dignity in retirement for those who have built our country and given younger generations the world we live in today."





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Warning to spicy food lovers as scientists link spicy diet to dementia

Scientists are warning those who love spicy food to think twice before adding that extra dollop of chilli or jalapeno pepper to their meal, after research linked a spicy diet to dementia.


cientists from Qatar University and the University of South Australia carried out a 15-year study of 4,582 Chinese adults aged over 55 and found evidence of faster cognitive decline in those who consistently ate more than 50 grams of chilli a day. If the chilli eaters were slim, memory decline was even more pronounced.

The study, led by Dr Zumin Shi from Qatar University, showed people who ate in excess of 50 grams of chilli a day had almost double the risk of memory decline and poor cognition.

“Chilli consumption was found to be beneficial for body weight and blood pressure in our previous studies. However, in this study, we found adverse effects on cognition among older adults,” said Dr Zumin Shi.

Dr Ming Li, an epidemiologist from the University of South Australia, one of five researchers involved in the study, said chilli intake included both fresh and dried chilli peppers but not sweet capsicum or black pepper.

“Chilli is one of the most commonly used spices in the world and particularly popular in Asia compared to European countries,” said Dr Li, adding: “In certain regions of China, such as Sichuan and Hunan, almost one in three adults consume spicy food every day.”

People who ate a lot of chilli had a lower income and body mass index (BMI) and were more physically active compared to those who didn’t.

This is the first longitudinal study to investigate the link between chilli intake and cognitive function. The paper 'High chili intake and cognitive function among 4582 adults' is published in Nutrients.



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NHS announces £135m research fund for dementia, obesity and mental health

The government has announced £135m for an NHS partnership with universities, innovators and local authorities, in a bid to solve some of the biggest issues facing health and social care over the next five years, including dementia, obesity and mental health.

The move is part of the NHS Long Term Plan announced earlier this year by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock.

A total of fifteen partnerships across the UK, made up of NHS organisations, social care services, leading academics, innovators, and local authorities, have received funding through the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

Health Minister Nicola Blackwood said: “As the population grows and demand on the NHS increases, it is paramount we develop the next generation of technologies and improve the way we work to ensure the NHS continues to offer world-leading care.

“The UK has a proud history of cutting-edge health research and by supporting the great minds in health and social care, this funding has the potential to unlock solutions to some of the biggest challenges facing healthcare and revolutionise the way patients access treatments in the future.”

Previous NIHR projects include:

• An online tool to help people manage their long-term conditions from the comfort of their own home, saving the NHS £175 per patient

• The introduction of life-saving blood clotting treatment - Tranexamic Acid (TXA) - across all ambulance services in England to reduce bleeding in trauma patients.

• A home-based rehabilitation programme for people with heart failure that has been shown to significantly improve quality of life, lead to better health outcomes for patients and is cost-effective to deliver in the NHS.

Prof Chris Whitty, chief scientific adviser to the Department of Health and Social Care, said: "The unique local collective approach at each NIHR Applied Research Collaboration will support applied health and care research that responds to, and meets, the needs of local patients, and local health and care systems. The network will also be able to tackle health priorities at a national level.

“The 15 new NIHR Applied Research Collaborations will ensure that we grow applied health and care research in every region in England. The additional funding announced today means we will ensure that our world-leading research is turned into real benefits for patients to ensure the Applied Research Collaborations work together to have national-level impact.”


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Brush your teeth -- postpone Alzheimer's

You don't only avoid holes in your teeth by keeping good oral hygiene, researchers at the University of Bergen have discovered a clear connection between gum disease and Alzheimer´s disease.

The researchers have determined that gum disease (gingivitis) plays a decisive role in whether a person developes Alzheimer´s or not.

"We discovered DNA-based proof that the bacteria causing gingivitis can move from the mouth to the brain," says researcher Piotr Mydel at Broegelmanns Research Laboratory, Department of Clinical Science, University of Bergen (UiB).

The bacteria produces a protein that destroys nerve cells in the brain, which in turn leads to loss of memory and ultimately, Alzheimer´s.

Brush your teeth for better memory

Mydel points out that the bacteria is not causing Alzheimer´s alone, but the presence of these bacteria raise the risk for developing the disease substantially and are also implicated in a more rapid progression of the disease. However, the good news is that this study shows that there are some things you can do yourself to slow down Alzheimer´s.

"Brush your teeth and use floss." Mydel adds that it is important, if you have established gingivitis and have Alzheimer´s in your family, to go to your dentist regularly and clean your teeth properly.

New medicine being developed

Researchers have previously discovered that the bacteria causing gingivitis can move from the mouth to the brain where theharmful enzymes they excrete can destroy the nerve cells in the brain. Now, for the first time, Mydel has DNA-evidence for this process from human brains. Mydel and his colleagues examined 53 persons with Alzheimer´s and discovered the enzyme in 96 per cent of the cases.According to Mydel, this knowledge gives researchers a possible new approach for attacking Alzheimer´s disease.

"We have managed to develop a drug that blocks the harmful enzymes from the bacteria, postponing the development of Alzheimer´s. We are planning to test this drug later this year, says Piotr Mydel.

Story Source:

Materials provided by The University of BergenNote: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Stephen S. Dominy, Casey Lynch, Florian Ermini, Malgorzata Benedyk, Agata Marczyk, Andrei Konradi, Mai Nguyen, Ursula Haditsch, Debasish Raha, Christina Griffin, Leslie J. Holsinger, Shirin Arastu-Kapur, Samer Kaba, Alexander Lee, Mark I. Ryder, Barbara Potempa, Piotr Mydel, Annelie Hellvard, Karina Adamowicz, Hatice Hasturk, Glenn D. Walker, Eric C. Reynolds, Richard L. M. Faull, Maurice A. Curtis, Mike Dragunow, Jan Potempa. Porphyromonas gingivalis in Alzheimer’s disease brains: Evidence for disease causation and treatment with small-molecule inhibitorsScience Advances, 2019; 5 (1): eaau3333 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aau3333



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Natural Ways to Relieve Arthritis Pain

Rheumatoid arthritis involves chronic stiffness, swelling, and pain affecting the joints, and it can result in patients struggling to carry out their most simple daily activities, from getting out of bed in the morning to making their way into the office to preparing dinner for the family at the end of a long day.

To help with their condition, many rheumatoid arthritis patients turn to potent pain medications. But there are natural ways to treat rheumatoid arthritis and these methods can help individuals manage their condition without spending huge sums of money of pricey medications. Of course, whatever your treatment choice, it’s always a good idea to run the idea by your family doctor before moving ahead.

1. Apply Heat

The most simple and yet surprisingly effective treatment for rheumatoid arthritis is to apply heat to those areas providing the most stiffness, pain and general discomfort. Applying heat can help to reduce the swelling of the muscle, cartilage and other tissue in the joints by stimulating blood flow in the area, helping to alleviate much of the stiffness and pain that can make getting through the day with rheumatoid arthritis really difficult.

There are a few ways you can use heat to your advantage. The less natural way is to apply a medicated cream that uses a warming sensation. For a more natural approach, try running a towel under warm water and then wrapping it around the problem area. You could also use a heating pad, most of which can be warmed in the microwave in a couple minutes, though this does require purchasing the pad.

While applying heat can help bring relief to swollen joints and help rheumatoid arthritis patients get through the day in a simple and cost-effective way, switching between applying hot and cold is actually a more efficient way to bring down swelling. That’s because alternating hot and cold has been shown to alleviate inflammation and provide relief from stiffness and pain for a more prolonged period of time.

To apply cold, all you really need is a handful of ice cubes wrapped in a thin towel, like a face cloth. To prevent the ice from melting and getting water everywhere, consider wrapping the cubes in a ziploc bag or plastic grocery bag before wrapping them in the towel. For best results, apply the cold pack for 20 minutes, then turn to the heating pad for 20 minutes. Rotate this process until you can detect a decrease in swelling.

One way to bring down the swelling associated with rheumatoid arthritis is to apply heat to the area using a heating pad or a towel warmed under hot water. This method for alleviating pain and discomfort is even more effective when combined with applying cold and then rotating between the two.

But you can also help bring relief to your sore joints by taking a hot shower or bath, particularly the latter. That’s because a shower or bath will immerse more of your body, and thus, more of your joints, in warmth, helping to stimulate blood flow and bring down the inflammation that presents such problems for people with rheumatoid arthritis. For even better results, consider soaking your swollen joints in a hot tub, which can apply even more heat and add stimulation.

4. Acupuncture Therapy

Acupuncture intimidated many North Americans when it began to appear more frequently in the late twentieth century, and for good reason: this form of treatment for rheumatoid arthritis (and many other conditions) involves probing and stimulating certain parts of the body in order to correct imbalances of energy known as “qi.” This stimulation occurs by taking tiny needles and inserting them under the skin — a sight that left many North Americans a little put off.

But acupuncture is one of the world’s oldest and most practiced medicinal treatments. For literally thousands of years it’s been used to treat a variety of conditions, including the swelling of the joints. Today, it’s used by millions to reduce inflammation in many parts of the body, especially the back. Talk to your doctor about the potential benefits of pursuing acupuncture therapy.

Most of the treatments for rheumatoid arthritis involve stimulating the body in physical ways — like applying heat, cold, or taking medications that can numb the pain or reduce swelling. But there’s something to be said for treatment methods that use our mental energy to distract from the discomfort associated with rheumatoid arthritis.

In that regard, meditation has been used extensively to help rheumatoid arthritis patients manage their condition and its various symptoms. This involves using deep-breathing techniques that can help negate the impact of stress receptors that can serve to cause the constriction of muscles in affected areas, making pain more noticeable. By focusing on deep breathing rather than the pain, rheumatoid arthritis patients can learn long-term strategies for managing their discomfort.

The problem with rheumatoid arthritis, aside from the general pain and discomfort in provides, is that it can make physical exercise difficult to imagine, let alone actually carry out. When you wake up in the morning with ankles, knees or hips that scream in pain, the idea of going for a walk, let alone a run, jog, or bike ride, will at first seem completely out of the question.

And that’s a big problem, as physical exercise has been shown to significantly reduce the symptoms associated with rheumatoid arthritis. Exercise can help improve flexibility in the joints and help build or improve the muscle that supports those joints. By refusing to engage in such activity, an individual could find their bones, joints, and connective tissues feel more stiff and resistant to movement. For this reason, it’s worth talking to your doctor about developing an effective and safe physical activity routine for your rheumatoid arthritis. Of particular importance are limited-impact activities, like cycling and swimming.

. Massage Therapy

The practice of massage therapy has grown in leaps and bounds in recent years, and for good reason: science supports massage therapists’ claims that massaging problem areas of the body can have a significant impact on pain and can help reduce inflammation. This is particularly important for individuals with rheumatoid arthritis, who are in constantly need of measures designed to prevent muscles and joints from becoming stiff and sore.

That said, not every massage therapist is the same — some are more experienced, while others specialize in providing treatment to people with certain ailments. Talk to your family doctor about getting a referral to a massage therapist who specializes in treating rheumatoid arthritis and related conditions.

8. Tai Chi

For decades, Tai Chi was regarded as something a little too strange for North American tastes. Was it meditation? Was it exercise? Was it some kind of weird twist on yoga?

In some ways, Tai Chi is actually a combination of all three — it’s a little bit meditation and deep breathing, a little physical exercise and stretching, a little yoga. In any case, it’s been shown to help build muscle strength and flexibility while improving an individual’s overall balance. It’s not guaranteed to help every rheumatoid arthritis patient manage their symptoms, but it’s worth a try.

This slow, gentle martial art is easy on your joints. You’ll stand and do a series of gentle movements that are easy to modify if your joints are sore. It can help with strength, flexibility, and balance. There isn’t enough research to know if it works to curb RA pain, but it may be something to try.

. Thunder God Vine

If we told you there’s a natural supplement that, when taken, could significantly reduce the inflammation around your joints, would you try it? Now, what if that supplement came from something called the “thunder god vine?”

It’s an odd name, but tests comparing thunder god vine with sulfasalazine, a drug popularly used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, showed the former scored better results in reducing the symptoms associated with RA. Keep in mind, however, that side effects are possible and include upset stomach, headache, even hair loss. Run the idea by a doctor before starting to use this supplement on a regular basis, especially if you’re pregnant or trying to become pregnant.

There are some foods you can add to your diet that could help in your fight against rheumatoid arthritis. For the most part, these are foods that help with muscle development and reduce inflammation, both of which play a major role in intensifying the pain and discomfort associated with rheumatoid arthritis.

And that’s where turmeric, a yellow-orange spice best known for its role in Indian cooking, comes in. Hailing from India and Indonesia, turmeric has a unique appearance and flavor and can be found in many of this region’s most popular dishes. But it’s also used for medicinal purposes, as turmeric has been shown to help alleviate inflammation in the joints and may even rival some drugs in its capacity to do this. Today, with south Asian cooking becoming more mainstream, turmeric should be available at just about any grocery store.

For the past few decades, yoga has become progressively more popular in North America. And there’s some good reason for that: yoga challenges participants to put their bodies’ flexibility to the test and rewards them with, in many cases, a resistance to physical injury. But it’s also a great way to meditate and take your mind off the stresses of personal and professional life.

That’s why so many people with rheumatoid arthritis turn to yoga to help manage their condition. It can help build flexibility in the areas most affected by rheumatoid arthritis, while its meditative element helps the mind focus on inner peace, rather than the pain and inflammation affecting their joints. In addition to helping with rheumatoid arthritis, yoga can help us reduce stress — a valuable tool for anyone with a busy job or home life.


12. Epsom Salts

One simple way to reduce the inflammation and bring a soothing, cooling calm your muscles and joints is to take a bath in water and empsom salts. When immersed in bath water, epsom salts dissolve and when this mixture is applied to the body, can sink in and soothe both the skin and muscles underneath.

Given the simplicity of this method and the low cost of epsom salts, this is a popular method for treating the pain, stiffness, and general discomfort associated with rheumatoid arthritis. In addition to helping treat rheumatoid arthritis pain and swelling, epsom salts are also used to reduce bruising, sore or torn muscles, skin conditions like psoriasis, and even sunburn. Soaking in a warm bath with epsom salts may also help alleviate stress and allow someone with insomnia trouble to enjoy a full night’s sleep.



Local health and social care leaders together with voluntary sector organisations in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland (LLR) have unveiled new plans for supporting people with dementia and their carers.

In the UK, one person develops dementia every three minutes. In Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland, there are more than 13,000 people living with dementia which is expected to rise in the coming years. Yet too many people living with dementia face the condition alone and excluded from society.

Read the Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland’s Living Well with Dementia Strategy 2019-22 which sets out a vision to help people to live well with dementia.

The strategy is informed by what people have said about their experiences either as a person living with dementia or as a carer. It is written for people with memory concerns, those with a dementia diagnosis, their families and carers and the organisations supporting them. An important focus of the strategy is to move towards delivery of personalised and integrated care.


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