CHRONIC underfunding of mental health services in Oxfordshire and rising demand has left the county ‘close to bursting point’, according to a local doctor.

Psychiatrist Dr Andrew Molodynski, based in Didcot, was speaking in his role as the British Medical Association's (BMA) mental health policy lead after a national survey by the doctors' union revealed more than half of mental health care workers said they were too busy to provide the care they would like to be able to give.

A further 44 per cent in the survey of more than 1,000 NHS workers said they felt demoralised and the same number admitted their workload was unmanageable.

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Dr Molodynski said there was ‘no doubt at all’ the national situation was replicated in Oxfordshire with things ‘close to bursting point’ due to 'double' underfunding, which an even greater shortfall in funding than the national average.

Dr Rob Bale, the clinical director of Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, which provides mental health services in the county, admitted stress was cited by staff as 'their number one concern'.

He explained: “There comes a point at which teams cannot achieve more with the same resources. We know our staff feel that deeply because they tell us stress is their number one concern and we are constantly looking at ways to support them."

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He added: "We are very grateful to all our teams for their continued dedication, commitment and compassion in caring for some of the most vulnerable people in the communities we serve.”

Dr Molodynski said the BMA study highlighted the 'very serious problems' facing the mental health sector with a workforce near to 'breaking point'.

He added: “There are desperate shortages of care staff of all types across mental health, with doctors and nurses on the frontline overworked and demoralised – and patient care is suffering as a result.

“Mental healthcare accounts for 25 per cent of all healthcare activity and yet our funding settlement stands at around 14 per cent of healthcare spending at best. This is not right and has to improve.”

The Care Quality Commission last month praised Oxford Health saying a £12m shortfall in mental health funding at the trust required an ‘additional level of dedication and capability’ from trust leaders and staff to ‘maintain the capacity and quality of the services whilst managing scarce resources’.

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Commenting on the BMA survey in a statement Oxford Health said: "The funding gap for mental health services is long standing and widely recognised.

"Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust is working closely with commissioners as well as the wider health and social care system and our third sector partners to improve resourcing and services to meet goals for mental healthcare set out in the NHS Long Term Plan."

The trust added despite the pressures staff went 'above and beyond' with Oxford Health winning national awards and in surveys staff 'overwhelmingly' saying they would recommend the trust's care to friends and family.