The National Health Service is losing thousands of key mental health professionals, undermining Government promises to grow staffing levels amid a surge in demand.
Figures from the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) reveal that 2,000 psychiatrists, nurses and therapists a month are leaving the NHS in England.
The Government pledged action after it was revealed that vulnerable patients under 18 were being sent more than 280 miles away from their homes for treatment.
Then Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said last year that NHS mental health staffing would rise 19,000 by 2021, providing 24-hour care and treating one million extra patients a year.
Nine months later, staffing has been increased by just 915, the Government confirmed.
With services across England already under-staffed, the monthly exodus has left NHS England struggling to cope.
They are facing a rise in patients needing help for depression, anxiety and a range of other mental health problems.
NHS Providers, the body representing all health trusts, says staff shortages in mental health services mean they cannot cope with increasing demand.
Psychiatrists and mental health nurses are in particularly short supply, they say.
Across the whole of the NHS, staff shortages are at their highest ever level, with 107,743 vacancies including more than 11,500 doctors and 41,000 nurses.
The situation has been partly blamed on the NHS pay freeze and uncertainty over Brexit dampening recruitment from abroad.
It is, according to think tank The King’s Fund, rapidly becoming a ‘national emergency.’
The DHSC claimed that there was a plan in place to transform mental health and other NHS services backed up by “record amounts” of funding and a new staff retention programme.