New report explores future of mental health workforce

A new report written by the Centre for Mental Health explores what the mental health workforce of tomorrow should look like.

The report, written on behalf of the NHS Confederation Mental Health Network, commissioned by NHS Employers and supported by Health Education England, examines the challenges facing the existing workforce, enabling them to construct a vision for its future.

Over 100 people participated in consultation events and discussions for the report, which focuses on three key areas of workforce development and planning: recruitment, retention, training and skills; structure and roles of the workforce; and culture of the workforce.

The report makes 22 recommendations for policy, practice, education and training in order to stimulate the changes that need to begin now to create a workforce for the future.

It highlights four key calls to action: for mental health careers to be promoted in schools and colleges; for all mental health service providers to support the mental health and well-being of their staff; for mental health workers to get training in the skills they will need in the future; and for people to be able to build their careers more flexibly, working in a range of different settings and sectors, and taking on new roles as they get older.

The report concludes: “The vision set out in this report will take many years to bring about. It requires major, and in some cases, fundamental changes to the way the mental health workforce is developed, recruited, trained, employed and supported. It implies major changes to the way services operate and work with those who use them, as well as their interactions with the rest of the NHS, local government and other public
services.

“It builds on but looks beyond the current Five Year Forward View and its recently published workforce strategy, recognising that workforce development cannot be done quickly but that changes are needed now in order to bring about benefits in the future.

“And this report emphasises that the mental health workforce cannot be taken for granted – that mental health services need to show compassion to their workforce as well as the people they serve, and that nurturing people with the skills and capabilities to meet future need is a long-term investment that cannot be left to chance.”

Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, said: “We were keen to commission the report because we think that mental health workforce issues are important and not always well understood.

“We hope that the recommendations gain traction across the system so that the mental health workforce is seen as a whole, maximising the contribution of existing roles and developing new roles where the evidence suggests these are required. We particularly welcome the recommendation to highlight the rewards of working with service users and their families and the focus on the development of the existing workforce.”

Sean Duggan, chief executive of the Mental Health Network, said: "Those consulted felt that the skills of those working in primary care need to reflect the work they do: that if one in three GP appointments relates to a mental health issue, why have less than half of GPs completed a mental health training placement?

“Examples were given of work with primary care, which increased GPs’ capacity and skill in addressing mental health needs.

“One participant described how they had ongoing dialogue with GPs through regular phone calls, surgery visits and consultations. This helped GPs to understand better when to make a referral, which enabled primary care partners to use mental health systems more effectively."

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