‘We should be an inclusive home’

13 January 2022

A plan to support 60 per cent growth in the psychological workforce over the next two years has been published by Health Education England. The Psychological Professions Workforce Plan for England was created to support the goals of the NHS Long Term Plan and was developed with the support of the British Psychological Society.

The plan was developed by the National Psychological Professions Workforce Group – policy and delivery leads at NHS England and Health Education England, stakeholders in the psychological professions (including service user and carer experts by experience), and 13 professional bodies including the BPS. It emphasises the role of NHS bodies, Integrated Care Systems, employers and education providers in working together to help increase the workforce to support the NHS Long Term Plan and the introduction of Mental Health Support Teams in schools, and to increase access to mental health care more broadly.

The plan is based around five priorities – expanding the workforce to improve access to psychological care, establishing clear career paths and development opportunities for professionals in psychology, attracting people from all backgrounds, developing leadership locally, regionally, and nationally, as well as new ways of working. It is focused on 12 core professions, including more traditional roles such as clinical psychologists and health psychologists and newer roles including children’s wellbeing practitioners and education mental health practitioners.

Claire Tilley, Head of Workforce, Education, Training and Standards at the BPS, explained how the society had been involved with the workforce plans. ‘When HEE and NHS England were undertaking a detailed analysis of the current workforce and its future long-term needs at the early stages of the Long Term Plan, we did a lot of work with them to identify who's in our workforce, what the new roles were and how they would be trained. We’ve now moved to become an accrediting body for many of the new and expanding roles – supporting the quality assurance of the training pathways which lead to them.

‘We now also have a registration scheme for Psychological Wellbeing Practitioners and Clinical Associate in Psychology roles. We've acted in a very specific way to help NHS England and HEE to realise their vision but in a way that's robust and sustainable.’

Tilley said that some of the biggest issues in the NHS were recruitment, retention and upskilling. Early discussions explored the transferability of skills between practitioner routes and ways to retain staff. She added that the BPS had tried to be a voice for the professions it represented in discussions and planning.

Tilley said the BPS had also been involved in developing apprenticeships and had supported and welcomed the expansion of funding. ‘A lot of the work that is happening now is the fruition of a lot of ongoing work and collaboration over a number of years.’

While the NHS Long Term Plan and the new Mental Health Support Teams in schools have largely driven a need for growth, the workforce plan also explores the employment of psychological professionals beyond the Long Term Plan in physical health settings, forensic services, and drug and alcohol services. It aims to support local systems in meeting this growth target, and also feeds into a wider workforce planning process which Health Education England is carrying out to support the overarching mental health workforce strategy.

To reflect these and other changes, the BPS is holding an historic member vote asking members to agree to changes to its charter and statutes – the first such vote in more than a decade, coming after a review of member grades and governance. Members are asked to agree to a number of changes, including the introduction of Associate Membership aimed at those working in the wider workforce and Full Membership which will offer progression for graduate members who often become ‘stuck’ on this membership grade throughout their careers.

Tilley said this vote aimed to reflect the changes to the psychological workforce itself. ‘We are the British Psychological Society and we can offer a place for practitioners to come together to collaborate and learn from each other. It’s important for practitioners to have a professional home and a collective sense of identity that I think has been lacking. We should be an inclusive home. Psychology affects all of us and even those with an curiosity about psychology should see an open door at the BPS – even if it’s not as a practitioner, there should be space for everybody.’

Looking to the future, Tilley said the BPS was interested in exploring numerous workforce issues across all four nations, including a need to focus more on moderate to severe mental health presentations and the expansion of better care for children and young people. ‘We’re learning about pilots in some NHS trusts where practitioners are delivering care in the community so people don’t need to go to hospital. I feel we’ll start to see more work happening in specialist spaces such as eating disorders, severe mental health issues and traumatic brain injuries – there will be a question around whether further more specialist roles or enhanced training are needed to support the roles which already exist.’

The vote will also ask members to agree to new routes to chartered membership where, as well as formal qualifications, competency and experience will be considered; and the introduction of a Chair of the Board of Trustees which will be separate from the President role. Members will also be asked whether they agree with the removal of Vice President, Honorary General Secretary and Honorary Treasurer roles, to change the term of President and President Elect roles from one year to two, and the introduction of three trustees with expertise in areas such as finance and HR. The vote closes on Saturday 12 February.


To read the workforce plan in full click here.

To find out more about the wider workforce, see our round-up here.

To find out more about the BPS vote see www.bps.org.uk/member-vote-2022

BPS votes now happen online as standard. To find out more or to update your voting preferences see www.bps.org.uk/news-and-policy/modernising-our-voting-system