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Career Planning

Why is this important?

There is an untapped recruitment supply pipeline that leads from the mental health support workforce into other mental health roles that may have high targets to meet or are hard to recruit to. If an organisation can build obtainable career pathways this may help them to reduce vacancies in other roles.

A recent survey of the mental health support workforce showed that a quarter of respondents wanted to remain in post and the remainder wanted to progress into other roles. This is a steady alternative supply pipeline for other roles in the Trust; 30% of respondents wanted to move to a higher support role and 46% wanted to move to a registered grade. However, when asked whether they knew how to progress their career, only half did. (King's College London, 2021, pg. 19).

We also know that 92.5% of mental health support workers or healthcare assistants in June 2019, and who were still employed by the NHS the following year, remained in the same role – suggesting difficulties in progression (Nuffield Trust, 2021, pg. 43).

Career planning in mental health services is complex – there is no central resource that someone can access that holds all the roles available, including the requirements for those roles and the funding and support available. However this does exist across different sources and we have tried to collate these here to be used as a base for career conversations.

The mental health support workforce tell us that ‘more effective appraisals’ and ‘transferable learning’ are the top two workforce interventions they felt would have the greatest impact on improving their careers. (King's College London, 2021, pg. 4). Find out more about effective appraisals and transferable learning in the day-to-day management section of the toolkit.

Health Education England’s Supporter Voice Network (a free virtual network) has identified a lack of career progression opportunities and clear pathways as a key issue.

How to use these resources?

The resources here are primarily focussed on individual conversations with the mental health support workforce. However we would strongly recommend working with your HR teams and head of department to create a more strategic career pathway, using the same resources here, that is available for all of the mental health support workforce and tailored to the opportunities available at your organisation.

It is important to note that being part of the mental health support workforce is a valuable and skilled career option in its own right – not all staff will be using this role as a stepping stone to the next position. However, don’t forget career pathways can be across as well as up and so some staff who wish to remain in post may be interested in equivalent roles.

checklist Career planning: To Do List

General mental health service roles / mental health support workforce career resources

Career maps

Use the following resources to understand different careers in mental health and possible journeys to get there.

Explore also careers in:

Allied Health Professionals

Nursing and nursing associate roles

Understand the development and career opportunities available for the nursing support workforce across health and social care.

Potential future mental health nurses can view the required core competencies and education requirements at each level of the Mental Health Nursing Competences and Career Framework and be able to plan careers and identify continuing professional development and education and training needs.

Trust initiatives to support pathways to nursing and nursing associate roles

‘Future You’ – An Alternative Pathway into Nursing, offered by Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust is an alternative pathway into nursing, taking individuals from a band two Healthcare Support Worker (HCSW) role through to a Registered Nurse (RN) position.

Healthcare Support Worker pathway for progression, offered by NHS Frimley Health Foundation Trust, ensures that all Healthcare Support Workers (HCSWs) coming into the trust undertake the Care Certificate, with the option to do a level 2 or 3 apprenticeship afterwards, The level 3 Health Care Assistant Apprenticeship builds on the fundamentals of care training that all HCSWs receive and further develops clinical skills. HCSWs that progress through the level 2 and 3 apprenticeships have the opportunity to enter into level 4 Associate Practitioner or Nursing Associate roles.

Vacancy search

Use the following platforms to search for new vacancies in health and social care:

A day in the life

The following case studies and videos provide an insight into the daily life of NHS workers in mental health nursing, nursing associate roles, allied health professions and psychological professions.

Mental health nursing

smart_display Explore what it means to work in mental health and learning disability nursing

In this video, people with lived experience of mental health describe the “huge impact” that great mental health care has had on their recovery and their lives. While mental health nurses explain why they feel there’s “…no greater gift than supporting someone and seeing them prosper and flourish.”

Explore more real-life stories from other mental health nurses.

Nursing associates

Find out more about a day in the life of a nursing associate.

smart_display Introducing the nursing associate

Nursing associates work with nurses, caring for patients to a high standard. But what are nursing associates? What opportunities do they have and what do they mean for registered nurses? Find out from trainee nursing associates and nurses.

Explore more real-life stories from nursing associates.

Allied health professionals

Explore the following resources to gain an insight into the broad range of Allied Health Professions.

Psychology professionals

Explore careers available in the psychology professions. The Psychological Professions Network produced this video to explain what the 12 psychological professions are.

smart_display A career in the psychological therapies

Find out about the careers in the psychological therapies and how you can help people with mental health conditions.