THE UK GOVERNMENT, in collaboration with NHS England, has released a much-anticipated long-term NHS Workforce Plan worth £2.4 billion. The plan outlines a substantial expansion of the psychological workforce, aiming to address the shortage of mental health support. Key provisions of the plan include increasing the number of training places for clinical psychology and child and adolescent psychotherapy by 1,000 each year until 2028/29.
Additionally, the plan aims to create at least 1,000 more approved clinician roles across mental health services by 2036/37. Funding has also been allocated to train around 15,000 more individuals in psychological therapist and practitioner roles.
Sarb Bajwa, Chief Executive of the British Psychological Society (BPS), expressed strong support for the plan’s commitment to a long-term expansion of the psychological workforce. Bajwa emphasised that this expansion is essential to improve patient care and address the existing staff shortages that have hindered mental health services from meeting the growing demand. The recruitment and training of clinical staff in various psychological roles will play a pivotal role in delivering preventive and early intervention mental health services, ultimately transforming community-based provision.
The NHS Workforce Plan also introduces measures to support the well-being of staff, including the requirement for Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) to develop and implement plans for investing in occupational health and well-being services. These measures align with the national Growing Occupational Health and Wellbeing (OHWB) Strategy. While the plan acknowledges the need to tailor the measures to meet local needs, it suggests that a core offer for ICSs could include rapid access to mental health and musculoskeletal advice, guidance, and treatment services, among other provisions.
Bajwa welcomed the plan’s focus on staff well-being, emphasising the importance of ensuring that both current and future staff members feel valued and supported by their employers. However, Bajwa raised concerns about the government’s decision to remove funding for the cost-effective NHS Staff Mental Health and Wellbeing Hubs just three months ago. These hubs provided crucial well-being support to NHS and social care staff and could have been an integral part of the solution. Bajwa urged the government to reconsider and provide ICSs with at least one year of additional ring-fenced funding for the NHS Staff Mental Health and Wellbeing Hubs. This would allow them to continue supporting staff while the workforce plan is being implemented and funding arrangements are finalised.
Bajwa also highlighted the need to address the needs of the existing workforce and prioritise measures to support their retention. While attracting and training new clinical staff will take several years, existing staff continue to face challenging conditions that compromise both their well-being and patient safety. The BPS stressed that many staff members are leaving the NHS due to unbearable pressure and burnout. Removing funding for the NHS Staff Mental Health and Wellbeing Hubs is seen as a false economy, as it leads to increased costs for agency staff.
The BPS strongly urged the government to provide ICSs with a minimum of one year’s additional ring-fenced funding for the NHS Staff Mental Health and Wellbeing Hubs. This will ensure ongoing support for staff while the workforce plan is implemented and funding arrangements are finalised.
The British Psychological Society is a registered charity that serves as the representative body for psychology and psychologists in the UK. Its role includes promoting excellence and ethical practice in the science, education, and application of psychology. The society aims to make psychology accessible to all and strives to be the learned society and professional body for the discipline, promoting and advancing the discipline while determining and ensuring the highest standards in all its activities.