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Thousands Of New Roles To Be Created In Mental Health Workforce Plan

NHS Blackburn with Darwen and East Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) welcome plans made by health secretary Jeremy Hunt to expand the mental health workforce, setting out measures to tackle the ‘historic imbalance’ in workforce capacity and fulfil the Government’s ambitions to improve mental health services.

Dr Rakesh Sharma clinical lead at the CCGs said:

“Mental health is high on agenda of both CCGs and we look forward to more investment and resources to further improve mental health of our population.”

The Government has committed £1bn to transform mental health services with a pledge to treat an extra one million patients by 2020/21, provide services seven days a week, 24 hours a day and properly integrate mental and physical health services for the first time.

By 2020/21 local areas will need to create 21,000 new posts in priority growth areas to deliver the improvements in services and support set out in the NHS’s Five Year Forward View for Mental Health.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said:

“We want people with mental health conditions to receive better treatment, and part of that means having the right NHS staff. We know we need to do much more to attract, retain and support the mental health workforce of the future – today is the first step to address this historic imbalance in workforce planning.

“As we embark on one of the biggest expansions of mental health services in Europe it is crucial we have the right people in post – that’s why we’re supporting those already in the profession to stay and giving incentives to those considering a career in mental health.

“These measures are ambitious, but essential for delivering the high performing and well-resourced mental health services we all want to see.”

All major specialties will see an expansion in numbers, with the plan targeting areas where there are forecast to be particular shortfalls as demand on services increases. It concludes that there should be:

• 2,000 additional nurses, consultants and therapist posts created in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services
• 2,900 additional therapists and other allied health professionals supporting expanded access to adult talking therapies
• 4,800 additional posts for nurses and therapists working in crisis care settings, with the majority of these (4,600) being nursing positions 
• Perinatal mental health support, liaison and diversion teams and early intervention teams working with people at risk of psychosis should also see significant increases

Professionals working in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service, therapists delivering expanded access to adult talking therapies, and nurses working in crisis care settings will be among the groups expected to grow most in the planned expansion – in part funded by the government’s commitment to an extra £1bn for mental health services by 2020/21.

To achieve this, the measures set out in the plan include:

• Improvements in how employers retain their existing mental health staff, including targeted support for 20 Trusts with the highest rates of clinical staff exits, alongside a national retention programme to be run by NHS Employers and a range of initiatives to improve career pathways and bolster access to learning and development opportunities.

• A major “Return to Practice” campaign to be led by HEE to encourage some of the 4,000 psychiatrists and 30,000 trained mental health nurses not substantively employed by the NHS to return to the profession. NHS Employers will also work with providers to develop more flexible and supportive working environments and help more of them to draw on the skills of recent retirees.

• A new action plan to attract more clinicians to work in mental health services and psychiatry, including a targeted campaign next year to encourage more trainees to specialise in mental health, as well as encouraging more junior doctors to experience psychiatry as part of their foundation training – either through a new ‘two week’ taster programme, or through increased availability of rotation placements in psychiatry.

• The development and expansion of new professional roles in mental health to help create more flexible teams and boost capacity enabling clinical staff to spend more face to face time with patients, by providing more support staff to take on the non-clinical tasks – for example updating patient records.

• Co-ordinated action to tackle the high attrition rates among psychiatry trainees, with the Royal College of Psychiatrists working with higher education institutions to improve on-the-job training and support, encourage greater flexibility and development a new Accelerated Return to Training programme for those who have abandoned training previously.

• The plan also pledges action to improve the mental health and resilience of its own workforce, while HEE will deliver a programme to improve awareness of mental health amongst NHS staff, including encouraging more GPs to undertake further formal training in psychiatry. HEE will also explore how to support Trusts in recruiting and training staff from abroad to meet short term recruitment needs.

Professor Ian Cumming, Chief Executive, Health Education England said:

“Mental health is one of our key priorities at HEE. We are strongly committed to supporting the current and future mental health workforce to ensure that people have access to high quality, well trained staff when and where they need them.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for the mental health sector and great news for patients. We are working with the system to provide more person centred care that is responsive to the needs of all age groups and in particular the complex mental and physical needs of older patients.

“An additional one million people will have access to mental health services by 2021 including 70,000 more children and young people accessing evidence based interventions. This is something for the whole system to work on to make sure patients get the best possible care”

Claire Murdoch, National Mental Health Director at NHS England said:

“We are very pleased to see the launch of this plan. This is not just about increased numbers: it's about having a motivated and skilled workforce in place to deliver the work we need to do. I know from many years' personal experience how rewarding a career in mental health can be. Our job now is make sure people are aware of the opportunities there are to develop their careers and be part of a workforce that is delivering the biggest improvements to mental health we have ever seen.”