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New data shows growth in children and young people’s mental health services workforce across England

4 November 2021

The mental health workforce supporting children and young people in England has seen a 39% increase in whole time equivalent (WTE) staff since 2018, according to new data1 published today by Health Education England.

The Children and Young People’s Mental Health (CYPMH) workforce across England report also shows that a total of 24,848 staff are employed in CYPMH services across England, delivering a total of 20,626 WTE staff across all sectors - a 39% growth on the 14,857 WTE staff reported in the previous census on 31 December 20182. When the census was first carried out in 2016, there were 12,683 WTE staff recorded.

The NHS employs 75% of staff in core CYP MH services with most of those staff (82%) working in the community. The second largest sector in terms of workforce size is the independent sector (2,293 WTE) who employ 11% of the total CYPMH staff reported in England.

HEE commissioned NHS Benchmarking Network to conduct a census of the CYP MH workforce across England, as of 31 March 2021. The report gathers data from the 2020/21 financial year and includes NHS services delivered by both NHS and non-NHS service providers3.

The previous census data has been used to compare and determine the development of the workforce.​ The methodology used has remained consistent so comparisons can be drawn with the previous data sets.  

The census provides an NHS and Non-NHS workforce profile including: ​  

Size of workforce – head count and WTE​  

  • Demographics ​ profiling
  • Discipline and skill mix (community and inpatient)  
  • Vacancies
  • Service models ​  
  • Skills and training

NHS mental health services are looking after more children and young people than ever before with over 420,000 treated in 2020/21 which is almost 100,000 more than three years ago4 though demand for services has also risen.

The NHS Long Term Plan - which predates rising demand following the COVID-19 pandemic - commits to ensuring that an additional 345,000 children and young people will be able to access support through mental health services and school or college-based Mental Health Support Teams, by 2023/24. This includes increasing the workforce by more than 27,000 people, across a range of specialist roles, to continue improving access to services and outcomes for children and young people.

Dr Navina Evans, HEE Chief Executive, said: “This important snapshot of the CYPMH workforce shows how it has grown since this census was first carried out in 2016, in response to the increasing need and demand for children and young people’s mental health care.

“All the staff who work across the CYPMH workforce have been vital in supporting more children and young people with mental health needs than ever before. It is essential that we continue to invest in education and training to grow the workforce further and encourage people to consider a career in mental healthcare.

“We need to prioritise better access to services and ensuring the CYPMH workforce of today and tomorrow has the right numbers, skills, values and behaviours, at the right time.

“We are also grateful to colleagues across the sector for contributing to this unique primary data collection. This resource will enable us to work collaboratively with key strategic partners to inform education and workforce planning and investments for now and in the future.”

To find out more about a career in the mental health sector visit the Health Career website for information on roles and trainings, and NHS Jobs for currently available positions.

Notes to editors

  1. CYP MH workforce benchmarking report (November 2021)
  2. CYP MH workforce benchmarking report (August 2019).
  3. Response rate for CYP MH: ​ 
  • 100% NHS providers and independent sector (incl. specialist inpatient and digital providers) 
  • 46 Local Authority (152 contacted, 45 stated no longer provide service)
  • 74 Voluntary Organisations (increase from 35) ​
  • 89 Youth Offending Team (increase from 72) ​
  1. NHS England Children and young people mental health webpage
  2. Latest ONS data shows that estimate prevalence of mental health disorder has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic from 1 in 9 aged 6 to 16 year olds in 2017 to 1 in 6 in 2021.
  3. The NHS England Mental Health Dashboard shows that in 2020/21; 589,705 CYP had at least one contact and 420,504 had at least two contacts with NHS funded mental health services. NHS Digital publish monthly updates from the Mental Health Services Dataset which indicate numbers have continued to increase in 2021/22, with 615,518 reported to have received at least one contact in the 12 months to July 2021. These are the highest recorded access numbers for CYPMH.