Viewpoint for Mental Health Today magazine

Feb 19, 2015.

Despite the growth of the mental health workforce in recent years, many public and private services continue to experience shortages in workforce supply and face difficulties in recruiting high calibre and compliant professionals.

There are a number of reasons for this. Various studies have linked the economic state of affairs with poor mental health and this is seen as one of the main factors for the increased demand for primary and secondary care services. A growing and ageing population, in addition to financial constraints, unemployment and rising personal debts, means the UK’s mental health is being impacted.

As a result, NHS mental health units are running at, or in some cases beyond, full capacity, with staff feeling the pressure and trusts fearing that the level of care delivery to patients will diminish. At the same time, as with many areas of the public sector, mental health is experiencing funding cuts.

So how do mental health services deliver more with less, without compromising patient safety?

What is required is a greater understanding of mental health services and workforce efficiencies to ensure best outcomes for the trust, the worker and, most importantly, the patient. The mental health profession is an ever-changing landscape as services integrate further and crossover. With that, as the NHS aims to achieve greater efficiency savings while ensuring staff-to-patient ratios are maintained, there is a pressing requirement to attract healthcare professionals across all disciplines, especially mental health professionals.

At the early stages of career planning, NHS trusts and affiliating recruitment agencies need to emphasise and promote the ‘selling points’ of the mental health vocation and the benefits of working in such a vital and growing field.

The opportunity to work within multi-disciplinary teams, alongside people from a range of backgrounds and experiences is often regarded as one of the key reasons why mental health is an attractive career choice.

Further to this, the range of diverse work environments, such as outpatient services, community mental health care services, home- and community-based support services, helps in expediting skill development while building experience and confidence.

However, mental health can be a particularly testing career path to take. It is therefore imperative to protect staff, as the greatest resource of the NHS, with on-going support to ensure the individual is content and progressing within their role and to address any concerns they may have at work.

For more established professionals, embarking on a locum career is a route that many decide to take for a number of reasons, predominantly for the benefit of their family life and building upon their experience.

The NHS relies on the commitment of locum doctors to its workforce to maintain essential services and to avoid compromising patient care and safety. Additional locums reinforce the workforce and support those substantive staff members who may be feeling overwhelmed, overworked and experiencing ‘burn out’ as a result.

ID Medical’s dedicated mental health recruitment division currently has 2,000 mental health professionals available to work and this number is growing daily, demonstrating that a locum career is seen as a beneficial alternative route to working within the NHS.

The division’s ongoing work and support for the Royal College of Psychiatrists ensures that doctors who opt for a career as a locum are meeting the necessary requirements and developing their skills to then return to training within the NHS. Further to this, ID Medical has a dedicated revalidation team to support doctors through their appraisal.

Locum work offers flexibility and breadth of practice that no other job can afford. Mental health professionals can choose their own working patterns and relish in the variety of work it brings – no two days are the same as a locum and they are exposed to diverse experiences.

As with all careers, it is important for mental health professionals to keep their options open and to consider alternating paths to achieving job satisfaction as well as professional development.

Though it is not just about staffing concerns; everyone within the healthcare industry must contribute to tackling the stigma surrounding mental health and mental health services. We support known organisations in raising awareness and demystifying mental health illnesses.

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