The delayed NHS Long Term Plan was finally published this week. It’s encouraging that mental health is mentioned prominently in the plan. The focus is on both adult and children’s mental health as well as learning disabilities. Staff wellbeing is also mentioned.
It’s discouraging that there are only six mentions of psychological therapy/therapies throughout the whole document despite this focus.
There is only one mention of the psychological professions workforce in the whole document and that is of counsellors.
The workforce chapter does not mention any psychological professions despite the requirements to provide more psychological therapies across a range of areas.
So is this good news or bad news? My initial reading made me think this is bad news and depressing. It was also a cold, grey January day. Having spoken with my PPN colleagues, I’m a lot less despondent. I think there is scope for us collectively to provide our input into the plans that emerge from this Long Term Plan – particularly the workforce plan.
Given the requirement to deliver so much more psychological therapy, we need to have the workforce to do this. The PPN has already provided a briefing on how to manage the expansion in the mental health workforce and how the PPN can help with this (see https://www.nwppn.nhs.uk/images/PPN_Brochure_June18.pdf). We will develop our detailed response to the Long Term plan soon too.
We need to have psychological professions contributing to the national workforce plan. In the Long Term Plan, we note there will be a National Workforce Group. A psychological professional contribution must be included in order to contribute to practical solutions to the workforce shortages that include all our professional groups. We need to have a psychological professional contribution that understands the range of access points to training, the career paths and barriers to workforce development and their potential solutions, the full map of what psychological therapies offer and can offer to the population and the workforce. The PPN approach provides a resource for this.
It is important that there is parity between mental health and physical health and the Long Term Plan recognises this in promoting increased investment in mental health. There is recognition that the NHS needs a chief midwifery officer but this parity has not been extended to the psychological workforce (similar in size but with much greater diversity). We call for a chief psychological professions officer to be part of the National Workforce Group to ensure that, ‘the future challenges can be addressed for the total workforce, as well as looking at each group individually’ (page 79).
So where’s the good news? We can provide input into these areas and the PPN work to date has already contributed to workforce planning as well as providing input into a range of work streams such as mental health, maternity, learning disability. We can build on this and offer our help in solving the challenges. The good news is that as PPN we work collectively and bring our expertise and knowledge together to do this. The good news is that it will only take a door to open for us to bring this to the table with our multi-professional colleagues. The good news is that this would make an important positive difference to future health and care to include the total workforce. We hope that this will be an opportunity for psychological professions to be part of creating the future solutions for this long-term plan given our unique position as psychological professions working across all sectors of health and care and with staff members.