Campaigning for the mental health workforce of the future

The policy landscape and its impact on the mental health workforce

Accompanying the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health is the HEE’s workforce plan, Stepping Forward to 2020/21: Mental Health Workforce Plan for England, which sets out how an additional 19,000 posts will be created by 2020/21 to staff the new services it pledges.

11,000 of these will be drawn from the 'traditional' pools of professionally regulated staff.

8,000 will be moving into new roles (e.g. peer support workers, personal wellbeing practitioners, call handlers, physician associates or nursing associates). HEE have established a number of 'task and finish' groups to explore ways to expand these new roles in mental health. We are leading the work on physician associates and have set out some frequently asked questions about physician associates

The actions needed to increase workforce supply are set out in this table. (PDF)

Though the plan includes the majority of the proposals we advocated for, it does not:

  • give enough attention to all mental health services. For instance, it does not cover the workforce to support older people, people with intellectual disabilities or with addiction problems.
  • include requirements for core adult services, such as community mental health services and rehabilitation services, or in children’s services to the extent that the college feels it is needed.

What has the College done so far?

We played a key role in influencing the content of Stepping Forward, the final HEE's workforce plan. We made sure the expertise and experience of College members was reflected and successfully advocated for a long-term comprehensive mental health workforce strategy.

We are contributing to the review on the future of the mental health workforce, led by Lord Willis, to enable the planning of sustainable improvements beyond 2021.

What is the College doing next?

The Royal College of Psychiatrists is embarking on a research project to better understand what interventions at undergraduate level might have an impact on students choosing psychiatry as a career.

The objective of this piece of work is to provide medical schools with examples of interventions to encourage their students to choose psychiatry, based on examples of good practice. Our findings will be shared with medical schools early next year with the purpose of sharing good practice and opportunities for improvement.

Workforce planning

We work closely with the College's Training and Workforce unit, based in the Professional Standards Department, to help make sure the UK has a well-trained workforce of psychiatrists.

To find out more, please visit our workforce section.

How can I get involved with the College’s campaign work on the mental health workforce?

We want to make sure our campaigns reflect the direct experience of psychiatrists, patients and carers.

If you have anything you would like us to be aware of, or if you have any evidence or experiences that will be relevant, please send them to

Get in contact to receive further information regarding a career in psychiatry