Campaigning for the mental health workforce of the future

Find out what the College is doing to ensure the future of the mental health workforce – and how you can support our work. 

The policy landscape and its impact on the mental health workforce

Accompanying the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health is 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 well-being 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 you can find guidance for employing bodies, prospective and existing Physician Associates – as well as information on our Physician Associates in Mental Health network – on our dedicated pages.  

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.

Following the publication of the NHS Long-Term Plan in January 2019, we engaged with national leaders and other partners to develop a vision for how people working in the NHS will be supported to deliver the plan. The Interim People Plan was subsequently published in June 2019.

What has the College done so far?

We played a key role in influencing the content of Stepping Forward and the NHS Interim People Plan.

We welcome this plan and are pleased that our views were heard during the consultation that took place to create it. We know that difficulties in recruiting enough psychiatrists, mental health nurses and other members of mental health teams has had a major impact on patient care. We are pleased that this plan recognises that more must be done so that the NHS has the staff it needs, including the proposal to allow more people to study at medical school.

We need to encourage more of these medical students to work in specialties like psychiatry where there are clear shortages. It is also good that this review has some practical suggestions on how we can retain the great staff who already work in the NHS by supporting their well-being and mental health.

You can read our summary of the NHS Interim People Plan (PDF).

What is the College doing next?

The Royal College of Psychiatrists will soon publish the findings of a 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 or to become psychologically-minded doctors. Our findings will be shared with medical schools in the summer with the purpose of sharing good practice and opportunities for improvement.

As ICSs take on greater responsibility for people planning and transformation activities, we will support our members who are clinical leaders in working with local decision makers to influence and engage with the implementation of the NHS Long Term Plan in their region. This is supported by our report on Improving mental health services in systems of integrated and accountable care: emerging lessons and priorities.

At the national level, we continue to make the case for a bigger psychiatric workforce. We monitor progress on Stepping Forward to 2020/21: Mental Health Workforce Plan for England and NHS People Plans. We are also currently working with HEE on their work to review, renew and update Framework 15, to help ensure we have the right numbers, skills, values and behaviours for the future.

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