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Psychological Professions

We aim to meet the workforce, education and training ambitions of the NHS Long Term Plan (NHS LTP)

What are the psychological professions?

The psychological professions are a diverse group of professions whose work is informed by the disciplines of psychology and psychological therapy. They work to prevent and alleviate psychological and emotional distress, manage mental health and wellbeing and empower individuals and communities to improve their lives.

These professions work across the lifespan - with children and young people, adults and older adults - as well as with communities and supporting the wider NHS workforce, and across a wide range of settings, including mental health services, hospitals, primary care services, prisons, local authorities and educational settings. To find out more about the psychological profession roles, including the new emerging roles, visit the psychological profession roles webpage.

How are we expanding the psychological professions workforce?

Building on the NHS Five Year Forward View, the NHS Long Term Plan set out ambitious proposals to expand access to psychological therapies and interventions at a faster pace than ever before. This includes specific commitments to expand access to evidence-based psychological therapies and interventions in perinatal mental health, children and young people’s mental health, for adults with common mental health problems and for those with severe mental health problems. Underpinned by a ringfenced local investment worth at least £2.3 billion a year in real terms by 2023/24, this transformation in NHS services will provide high quality, evidence-based mental health services to an additional 2 million people. 

Delivering this transformation will require a ‘step-change’ in our workforce - expanding in numbers, but also investing in our staff and supporting them to work differently. Across NHS mental health services in England, an estimated 27,000 (WTE) new mental health posts will be needed to deliver the NHS Long Term Plan, in addition to the growth already being delivered under Stepping forward to 2020/21. The psychological professions workforce alone will need to grow by at least 60 per cent between March 2020 and April 2024. 

Alongside delivering a net expansion of skilled staff to support growth and transformation in psychological care, we will need to do better at retaining the skilled staff we have, investing in their skills and supporting them to use their expertise where it is most needed.  This includes up-skilling our workforce, establishing more coherent and integrated career paths for all psychological professions and developing and embedding new roles. 

Psychological Professions Workforce Plan for England

Health Education England has published the Psychological Professions Workforce Plan for England and priority action annexe

The plan is focused on the mental health ambitions of the NHS Long Term Plan and on meeting people’s mental health needs by delivering a 60 per cent growth in the psychological profession’s workforce, for the benefit of service users, families and carers. The plan also sets out how organisations can and should make effective use of the diverse roles within the psychological professions.  

The psychological professions fall into three main groups, psychologists, psychological therapists and psychological practitioners who work to prevent and alleviate psychological and emotional distress, manage mental health and wellbeing and empower individuals and communities to improve their lives.  

The Workforce Plan sets out a direction of travel to maximise the impact of this workforce for the public to 2024. It highlights the role of the national NHS bodies, Integrated Care Systems, Employers and Higher Education Institutes (HEIs) in working together to support this direction.

The Psychological Professions Workforce Plan for England does also look beyond the NHS Long Term Plan to the employment of psychological professionals in physical healthcare settings, drug and alcohol services, forensic services where they have potential to make a very significant impact on the prevention of mental ill health. 

This plan forms part of a wider strategic workforce planning process being undertaken by HEE and feeds into the overarching mental health workforce strategy. It also aligns to We are the NHS: People Plan 2020/21 and the National Vision for the Psychological Professions.

The growth needed in the psychological workforce was modelled before the Covid-19 pandemic, therefore, demand for psychological services may exceed these calculations meaning the workforce would need to grow even further. The Psychological Professions Workforce Plan for England takes this into account. 

You can also read the following accessible versions Psychological Professions Workforce Plan and Delivering the Psychological Professions Workforce Plan Priority Action Summary

All documents are also available in the Related Documents section of this page.

National Psychological Professions Workforce Group

A National Psychological Professions Workforce Group has been established to take forward plans for the Workforce Implementation Plan for the NHS Long Term Plan (LTP) and build on the work done by the Psychological Professions New Roles Task and Finish Group. This includes wide representation from HEE, Arm’s Length Bodies, professional and user groups.

Priorities/Recommendations:

  • To develop and publish a national Psychological Professions (Workforce) Strategy to enable the delivery of the Long Term Plan.
  • Model the full requirement for the existing psychological professions
  • Redesign workforce and training models for Adult Common and Severe Mental Health Problems to solve challenges in supply and retention and enable the required further expansion of psychological therapies in these areas
  • Establish clear principles for the implementation of additional new roles in the psychological professions (based on clinical need, evidence based).
  • Determine whether deploying additional new psychologically-informed roles at graduate or non-graduate entry level could support delivery of the LTP.
  • Develop a more integrated and coherent psychological career path with clearer and more efficient routes of entry, progression and lateral development.
  • Implement a programme to promote psychological professions careers, and a toolkit for making jobs more attractive, to support recruitment and retention. This includes ensuring all new roles are clearly defined, relate appropriately to existing roles and are appropriately supported, governed and accredited.
  • Establish a senior psychological professional to lead on psychological healthcare delivery on every mental health trust board in the system. This may include exploring the potential benefits of a Chief Psychological Professions Officer role.
  • Identify how the mental health services data set can be amended to capture consultative or other indirect clinical activity and routine outcome measures for direct psychological professions activity and implement these changes.

Psychological professions updates and news

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