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Mental Health Workforce Plan ‘fails to include social workers’

BASW says more attention should be given to social workers within the government’s plans

Published on 21st August 2017

The government’s Mental Health Workforce Plan has been criticised for failing to include social workers.

The government recently announced plans to expend the mental health workforce by 21,000 new posts, dramatically increasing the number of trained nurses, therapists, psychiatrists, peer support workers and other mental health professionals to tackle the ‘burning injustice’ of mental illness and inadequate treatment.

However, BASW, UKCP, BACP, the BPS and the RCSLT have united to raise concerns over the lack of attention given to social workers and allied health professionals within the proposals.

In a letter to Professor Ian Cumming, CEO, HEE and Claire Murdoch, National Mental Health Director, NHS, the organisations highlight that while they welcome the focus on the mental health workforce, “we do not think that, as drafted, it can be helpful for commissioners given the focus on psychiatry and the lack of evidence from Allied Health Professionals (AHPs), psychologists, psychological therapists and social workers”.

The letter highlights that a draft of the workforce strategy was produced in December 2016 by HEE, in collaboration with representatives from some professional bodies and other stakeholders before being sent out for a wider consultation.

However, the five organisation say that the way this was done was “inadequate both in terms of distribution and timescale”.

“Subsequently, that document, and the collaborative input and consultation responses which accompanied it, has been replaced in favour of one which excludes the majority of professional bodies, charities and experts-by-experience,” the letter adds.

It states that the organisations are concerned over the transparency of the production process when the advisory group working on the original document, including many representatives from the wider mental health workforce was apparently disbanded without notice and without further consultation following the draft document from December and even this working group did not originally include all relevant professional bodies.

“As you are aware, the mental health workforce is vastly broader that just psychiatry, important though it is to our field,” it adds. “We believe opportunities have been and will be missed to develop and deliver the best quality services by ignoring the wider workforce.”

All but one profession has effectively been excluded in the completion of this document, the organisations warn, which will be influencing the workforce of the NHS in England and, by extension the mental health of the public over the next several years. Each of the organisations and their professions have expertise each in different areas, “all of which are important to help the NHS to deliver an optimum service for mental health”.

The negative effect on people of focussing on a small section of the mental health workforce and setting aside the considerable contribution also made by other sections of the workforce will be great, the letter warns.

The organisations conclude by urging HEE and the NHS to engage and collaborate with all professions and experts from the wider mental health workforce moving forward to ensure the strategy “provides an accurate and agreed reflection of their potential contribution and provides the best outcomes for service users”.

The letter is signed by BASW alongside the British Psychological Society, the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, the UK Council for Psychotherapy and the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, and can be viewed here.

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