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Improving equity and inclusion for people to access psychological professions training

Health Education England (HEE) is delivering a range of education, training and workforce initiatives to address health inequalities in mental health through the work of a dedicated HEE Mental Health Workforce Delivery Equalities subgroup.

Targeted action in the psychological professions has been taken to improve inclusion, specifically in clinical psychology and child and adolescent psychotherapy training. In addition, HEE has implemented a mentoring scheme to support aspiring ethnic minority leaders in all psychological professions. 

HEE is also committed to monitoring data and working with partners to address the inequity of access and widening participation across all mental health training programmes. 

Clinical Psychology inclusion initiatives 

The Mental Health Implementation Plan for the NHS in England set a target that an additional 2,520 practitioner psychologists (indicative) will be needed in post across NHS mental health services by 2023/24. 

In response, HEE has commissioned more than a 60% expansion in entry for NHS-funded places on the Doctorate in Clinical Psychology across 2020 and 2021. 

Nevertheless, it remains the case that a significant proportion of the 20,000 people who graduate with a degree in psychology each year and want to find a career in health and care find it hard to find a way in. Entry-level posts are often poorly connected to a career path meaning high levels of risk for graduates taking this route.  

Many graduates find they have no option but to take on unpaid placement experience to gain the experience that is often required to compete successfully for a place on the Doctorate in Clinical Psychology. The volunteering culture and uncertainty has contributed to disproportionate disadvantages for psychology graduates from ethnic minorities and those from lower socio-economic backgrounds.  

A number of steps have been taken to tackle this problem: 

  1. An Action Plan to Improve Equity of Access and Inclusion for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Entrants to Clinical Psychology Training has been co-constructed with stakeholders, by which HEE will support Clinical Psychology Doctorate courses to implement positive change, and through which there is accountability for change. The Equity and Inclusion Action Plan forms part of the work to support the transformation of the workforce, in line with the commitments of the NHS Long Term Plan and Advancing Mental Health Equalities Strategy. It sits alongside other broader actions across the system made by professional organisations, education and training providers, and others. 

To support the delivery of the Equity and Inclusion Action Plan, HEE also provided development funding for each of the Doctorate in Clinical Psychology training providers. The development funding allows every programme to employ an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Lead who will lead on delivering the action plan.  

  1. HEE has provided development funding to every clinical psychology training programme in England to deliver a mentoring scheme for ethnic minority candidates considering an application for clinical psychology training.  

  1. HEE has commissioned NHS provider Trusts to deliver paid experience schemes offering paid opportunities for financially disadvantaged aspiring clinical psychologists to gain clinical experience.  

Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy inclusion initiative 

HEE has commissioned a significant expansion of child and adolescent psychotherapy clinical training from 2020 to 2021. However, access to the required pre-clinical training, which has traditionally been self-funded, has been a known obstacle to equitable access to a child and adolescent psychotherapy career. In response, HEE has commissioned bursary schemes across England to support disadvantaged applicants to undertake the pre-clinical training, within the terms of the Equality Act (2010). These schemes have also targeted areas outside of London underserved by child and adolescent psychotherapy, to support more applications in these areas. 

The RISE Ethnic Minority Leadership mentoring scheme 

It is known that under-representation of minoritised groups becomes more pronounced in more senior psychological professions roles. HEE has commissioned the RISE mentoring scheme to deliver leadership mentoring opportunities for ethnic minority psychological professionals (AfC Bands 5 – 8a) who aspire to lead. This will support the creation of more diverse, inclusive leadership in the psychological professions. 

If you would like to find out more about our work to address health inequalities in mental health, contact mentalhealth@hee.nhs.uk.