The Psychological Professions Workforce Plan for England will provide improved understanding in the new and emerging terrain of the NHS in England.
Developed by the National Psychological Professions Workforce Group and published by Health Education England on 14th December, this strategic plan sets out a way in which we can maximise the impact of the Psychological Professions workforce for the NHS in England, for the benefit of service users, carers and their families. It highlights the complexity of our NHS, taking into account the organisations, new and established, that will have to play their part to make this a reality: no single organisation is able to deliver the required pace of change without collaboration. Progress is dependent on national NHS bodies, Integrated Care Systems, employers and training providers all taking action in the same direction: to generate a coherent framework for workforce expansion to meet the needs of people in every age group in all areas of the country.
The NHS Long Term Plan is driving a need for massive expansion of the psychological professions. On top of this the pandemic has underlined the practical importance of meeting the aims in the plan but has also increased further the need for psychological services, whilst highlighting population and workforce inequities. We need to address this and avoid ‘patchy’ or inequitable provision for those most in need. Local NHS employers and commissioners are developing workforce plans within Integrated Care Systems, whilst regional and national NHS bodies are setting out their own workforce plans in order to address these issues, to meet local need wherever possible. The Psychological Professions have much to contribute in rising to the challenges, with a wide range of expertise to improve physical and mental wellbeing.
However, the psychological professions are often little known, poorly understood and therefore under-represented in workforce planning. This situation continues despite specific requirements for at least a 60% increase in the numbers of psychological professionals (over and above the estimated 2019 numbers) in mental health services alone. This is a significant challenge given the length of training required in many Psychological Professions and the limited access to the type of supervision and leadership structures that can reliably support such a rapid expansion.
Overcoming these issues and making full use of the potential of Psychological Professions over the next few years is going to require both an improved understanding of our professional groupings and coordinated action at multiple levels. Given this, the publication of the National Psychological Professions Workforce Plan is well-timed.
The plan sets out much more than a call to action and a useful route planner. This document provides essential workforce numbers and a clear articulation of the potential that the Psychological Professions offer to the NHS. The plan offers practically useful information that will support engagement across local workforce planning systems at different levels of service organisation.
The plan incorporates five key workforce delivery themes: to enable Growth, Development, Diversification, Leadership and Transformation. This strategic framework will help to coordinate workforce initiatives across systems and to translate the detail into deliverable actions, mapped at the organisational level. The handy appendix provides a ready-made workforce action plan that can be tailored to local settings.
We have all seen strategic plans that appear to be little more than a list of disconnected items that are already happening, or a map without obvious connection to the bumps in the road ahead . This workforce plan is different in that it will help to link the strategic vision and the required component parts to concrete actions we can take to make expansion a reality. In addition to the map, the plan offers a tool kit to increase system traction in addressing the workforce challenge. Making full use of the tools that it provides will enable us to deliver the step-change in coordinated workforce planning in the NHS that is required, help us drive forward the improvements described in the NHS Long Term Plan and the national Vision for the Psychological Professions, as well as meet some of the challenges Covid 19 has presented. The Psychological Professions Network is looking forward to supporting these developments regionally and nationally. We hope that many of you will be joining and supporting us in making all health and care psychological.
You can find the Workforce Plan on the Health Education England website: Psychological Professions | Health Education England (hee.nhs.uk)