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20.12.17

A mental health workforce fit for the future

Source: NHE Nov/Dec 17

Sean Duggan, chief executive of NHS Confederation’s Mental Health Network, discusses how the mental health workforce needs to adapt to prepare itself for the tough times ahead.

On the steps of Number 10 Downing Street, during her first speech as prime minister, Theresa May stated that there was not enough help at hand for people who have mental health problems, and promised to work towards ending this “burning injustice.”

We know the level of unmet need for mental health support in our society is huge, and that the expansion of services over the next few years will be vital in allowing more people to access the care and support they need.

The much-needed development and growth of mental health provision must be underpinned by a “radical reform” of the workforce to deliver services which will meet people’s needs in the future.

This need for reform was reflected in ‘The future of the mental health workforce’ report published by the Centre for Mental Health this year on behalf of the Mental Health Network. The report itself was commissioned by NHS Employers and supported by Health Education England.

It examined questions surrounding what the mental health workforce should look like in the future –  based on insights from service users, carers and professionals – and outlined a range of recommendations aimed at creating a sustainable mental health workforce fit for the future.

The report emphasised the importance of prevention, including the role of GPs in supporting people before they reach crisis point. It noted, for example, that a third of GP consultations involve mental health but fewer than half of GPs have mental health training placements.

Recommendations made included that all GPs should have significant and wide-ranging mental health training, and that mental health professionals should be given the time and training to consult with GPs and other public service staff to help them respond to more people’s mental health needs.

We know the future of the workforce will be affected by the changing policy context. Institutions will have to adapt to shifting surroundings in order to ensure the workforce remains fit for purpose.

Professional bodies must collaborate to develop a range of clear career pathways for mental health professionals and offer greater flexibility to people wanting to move between professions and roles during their careers.

We must also do much more to promote the wide range of rewarding careers young people can embark upon in the sector. Additionally, mental health service providers should better support the wellbeing of their own workforce.

Of particular concern to those working in the mental health sector is the inequality experienced by some groups within our communities. We know people from BAME backgrounds often find it harder to access services and are much more likely to be detained under the Mental Health Act.

Meeting the needs of everyone in our communities will require services to work in different, more flexible ways, and the workforce to better reflect the community that it serves. It is vital we provide high-quality, appropriate care for all who need it.

The scale of the challenge ahead should not be underestimated. In the immediate term, mental health services are continuing to operate under severe financial pressure. Furthermore, there are uncertainties created by Brexit relating to the recruitment of staff in some areas of the country.

Looking ahead to the future, we look forward to working with national and local partners, including our membership of the Mental Health Network, to implement the recommendations and ensure we have a mental health workforce that is well placed to meet the challenges ahead.

 

© Obencem

FOR MORE INFORMATION
W: www.nhsconfed.org/networks/mental-health-network

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