Demand for Mental Health Practitioners is Higher Than Ever. What Can Trusts Do Now?

The UK has experienced a 12.63% decrease in mental health practitioners up until 2019 (pre pandemic). This, coupled with a 21% increase in demand on services is creating a perfect storm.

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The impact of the pandemic is still being fully determined but early signs show, as expected, an unparalleled surge in need across the sector with a particular demand driven from the impact being felt by our young people. This has been evidenced to Just R by the surge in projects we have been commissioned to undertake on behalf of CAMH services.

The Centre for Mental Health and partners have estimated that mental health services in England will need additional capacity for 8.5 million adults and 1.5 million children and young people over the next three to five years; a devastating total of 10 million people.

The Long Term Plan has paved the way for some amazing transformation work in mental health services, such as community mental health teams and better integration between primary care and secondary mental health services. But this alone will not be enough to provide a solution given the scale of the challenge ahead.

Competition for Qualified Mental Health workers is coming from all angles, including overseas (this is a worldwide problem), private sector providers (who are being funded by the government), as well as a growing pull to leave the profession (numbers predicted to leave are higher than ever before).

Trusts must act now to develop their own own bespoke solutions; to future proof their workforce. Comprehensive attraction and retention strategies must be developed in order to avoid future calamitous results.

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So what can Trusts do now?

  • Undertake an exercise to gain understanding as to why people join your organisation and why they stay
  • Look at the onboarding of staff. Question if it is good enough? Is it really good enough?
  • Support the development of strong teams; initiate team building activities and look at how it can be built into onboarding processes.
  • Clearly define career pathways. Often they exist but lack clarity and are poorly communicated. Establishing clear, named career pathways enable new recruits to envision a career rather than a position, increasing their emotional contract with the organisation.
  • Look at your policies on flexible working – can you attract staff back who have left with a change in terms? Great success has been demonstrated from Trusts willing to fully embrace flexible working.
  • Create USP’s. They must be strong and can include your career pathways, flexible working policies, etc. The key is for them to be clearly defined and communicated.
  • Work on a strong Employer Value Proposition or Employer Brand to become recognisable and stand out. This isn’t just a shiny logo or pretty colours; an Employer Value Proposition determines who you are as an organisation to enable you to attract the people you really want and who should thrive as part of your teams.
  • Develop and deliver a recruitment marketing and communications strategy to reach passive candidates, as well as creating a compelling appeal to newly qualifying students. If you don’t do it, competitor organisations will be and you will risk losing out.

Ensure you have processes in place to manage talent pools and a recruitment pipeline. We have worked with countless organisations who simply don’t have the processes in place to manage a pipeline. Our recruitment pipeline management system can support this, however resource to manage prospective candidate talentpool is an ongoing need that Trusts need to embrace supporting.

There are of course cost implications to all of the above but the cost of failing to act are incomparable. The true cost of attrition is hard to measure but our calculator can give you an indication. On top of monetary cost from the need for increased agency spend, the cost of reduced team morale and reduced standards in patient care both have a far greater cost.

Proactive recruitment is a far more cost efficient and effective solution. The sooner you take steps away from the reactive cycle the greater advantage you will have over the competition for your people.


Just R has been built with the sole purpose of working with the NHS to solve workforce challenges. We work with over 50 NHS Organisations across the UK and we are proud to develop and deliver attraction and retention solutions which really work.

We would love to help you develop solutions for the challenges ahead.